Making materials smart
The fifth LRC summer school constructs switchable surfaces.
The fifth summer school for the young scientists of the LRC took place in Saarbrücken from September 4th to 6th, 2019. The team around Jiaxi Cui at the Leibniz Institute for New Materials (Leibniz-INM) organised this event.
The LRC junior research group "Switchable mesostructured surfaces" in Saarbrücken, led by Jiaxi Cui, is focused on the development and synthesis of new intelligent materials which can change their properties such as volume, shape, wettability as well as optical and mechanical properties, adhesion and surface geometry as a function of external influences. These materials are processed into responsive components by various approaches such as polymerisation, self-organisation, molecular recognition or mixing. In addition, the application of nano- and micro-technologies for the production of new materials is investigated. Based on these materials and components, switchable structured surfaces are produced for applications in areas such as biosynthesis, biomedicine, antifouling, imaging and adhesion.
The focus of this summer school was on the design of complex structures consisting of a structured surface with geometrically arranged hollow columns (channels) and a soft actuator system that can switch between channels. In this context, (1) different actuator materials such as smart hydrogels, liquid crystal elastomers, magnetic composites were presented, (2) the interface adhesion between different materials was studied and (3) meso/micro fabrication technologies were investigated. In the miniaturized columns and channels made of smart materials, liquids are to be moved and mixed at the touch of a button. In this way, chain reactions or reaction cycles in cells can be imitated and specifically controlled.
"The LRC Summer School is a great opportunity to explore other areas of research. At Leibniz-INM, I was particularly fascinated by the polymerization and how the diverse applications of this technique influence the function of the material. With this knowledge, I have an updated and expanded view of applications of my own research topics, but also of my future career opportunities," says Jun Lin, a trained pharmaceutical biotechnologist and doctoral student at the Leibniz-HKI in Jena.
The young scientists at the LRC have now completed five Summer schools, which gave them insights in the five junior research groups and where they gained basic knowledge in the various disciplines of the life- and engineering sciences, which optimally prepared them for the future job market, where interdisciplinarity and creative thinking beyond discipline limits will be increasingly required.