1,75 million grant for new materials with special properties

Inspiration from nature for professors Schenning and Sommerdijk
Nano hybrid material

NWO Chemical Sciences has awarded TU/e professors Albert Schenning and Nico Sommerdijk a TOP-PUNT grant. The researchers will receive 1.75 million euros funding for their research proposal ‘Bi-Hy’. Four additional PhD-students and  two postdocs will be recruited to work on this research during the next five years and there will be invested in research equipment for electron microscopy.

Nature knows materials which, thanks to their combination of hard and soft components, have structures which extend over different length scales. Thus, they have outstanding properties, such as high strength in combination with flexibility. These natural materials are the source of inspiration for Schenning and Sommerdijk who synthetically develop similar smart materials in their multidisciplinary research ‘Bi-Hy’ and study them in detail.

Joint disciplines
In the research, knowledge in the fields of polymer chemistry and crystal growth is brought together to control hybrid materials (with both soft and hard parts) on the molecular level up to macroscopic dimensions. For the first time 3D polymer host materials will be used as a template for precise, directed crystal growth. This leads to programmed functional properties. The materials which are developed can, for example, change their color or shape when they are exposed to light. Such materials may be applied in areas ranging from soft robotics (where hard robot components are replaced by deformable plastics) to smart windows (which can regulate the amount of sunlight in a building). Another application is the coating of walls and clothing with these materials in order to generate power by movement.

TOP-PUNT grants (1.75 million euros) are for small teams of full professors appointed at chemical centers of excellence. The full professors can use the grant to jointly set up, strengthen or renew challenging and innovative lines of research. In this round NWO chemical sciences received a total of eleven TOP-PUNT applications, of which three teams in the coming years will carry out their research plans.