Design and synthesis of hierarchically structured functional and responsive materials
Organic materials are widely used in technological applications, ranging from protective coatings and liquid crystalline displays to polymer solar cells. Research into the fundamentals of Complex Molecular Systems is imperative to push the boundaries and develop new opportunities, especially in the field of Soft Matter.
In the field of molecular devices the functionality of materials is directly related to the organization at the mesoscopic scale, where the constituting (macro)molecules form higher-order assemblies of 5-500 nm in size. Using a combination of approaches of self-organization (bottom-up) and directed assembly (top-down), (macro)molecules can be organized into mesoscale assemblies with desired size, shape and orientation – thus creating nanostructures with desired functionalities. By investigating the fundamentals of these molecular systems, TU/e researchers have already been able to make substantial contributions throughout the vast area of technological applications, ranging from protective coatings and liquid crystalline displays to polymer solar cells.
However, designing functional soft materials with desired hierarchical structures is still an enormous challenge. Here, not only the molecular structure but also the size, shape and surface properties of the assemblies determine how they organize into higher-order structures. Additionally, the kinetics of the assembly processes - both on the molecular and the mesoscopic level - will also affect the final structure and thereby the functionality of the material.
The joint TU/e researchers in the field of Complex Molecular Systems are now developing an approach of Correlative Analysis that will allow visualization of the construction of building blocks at the nanoscale and their organization into higher-order structure at the mesoscale. This opens the possibility to actively interfere with these processes and control the morphology of the resulting materials at the different hierarchical levels.