Simply complex: discerning specific ion effects for soft materials

February 2, 2023

On February 7, 2023 Anna Casimiro will defend her PhD thesis entitled 'Simply complex: discerning specific ion effects for soft materials

When talking about “salt” it is often directly assumed that that is sodium chloride (NaCl). It is unquestionable that due to its availability and price, NaCl is very versatile for several applications: From food seasoning and preservation, to regulating functions of animals and plants. Giving the latter, it is not surprising that NaCl is one of the most used and researched salts in science. Nevertheless, the definition of a salt is that of a chemical compound consisting of an assembly of cations and anions. This means that the classification of salts includes many more compounds than just NaCl. The study of the characteristics and properties of different salts and especially of the ions they are made of, has led to the development of new technologies with a crucial impact on our everyday life.

Even though some ions might have the same charge and similar size they can give rise to very different effects. As a consequence, understanding the specific effect simple ions have on several systems and the fundamental reasons behind them, has revealed to be a non-trivial task. For this reason, research on specific ion effects, their causes and consequences has been restless for the past century.

The aim of this thesis was to expand the applicability of the effect that ions have on several materials both from a fundamental and an applied point of view. In this regard, the interactions between the chemical constituents of the materials were tuned with the systematic use of different ions, observing their impact on material morphologies and performances. Ions in fact, were used in this work to trigger the formation of ordered arrangement of molecules, to improve the ion conductivity performances of polymers and to tune the density of polymeric membranes influencing their water permeability and rejection performances.

Anna Casimiro will defend her thesis ‘Simply complex: discerning specific ion effects for soft materials’ on Tuesday February 7, 2023. She was supervised by Kitty Nijmeijer and Zandrie Borneman.

Bianca Moonen-Tossaint
(Departmental Communication Advisor)