In the bio-inspired functional polymers group of Dr. Marleen Kamperman we are interested in bioinspired synthesis of polymers and nanostructured surfaces. Natural polymers, such as proteins and DNA, self-assemble into materials with remarkable properties that are unmatched in synthetic materials. Mussels, for example, secrete protein-based adhesive materials to attach themselves to surfaces under harsh marine environments. Geckos developed hairy structures on their feet, which gives the lizard the ability to run up and down almost any surface. In contrast, most conventional adhesives can only be used once, on clean, dry surfaces. Our goal is to use biological strategies as guidance to develop new polymer materials and surfaces. To this end, we synthesize (block)copolymers using several polymerization techniques: anionic and controlled radical polymerization and using recombinant DNA technologies. We study material properties using various techniques including force measurements on different length scales, electron microscopy and dynamic mechanical analysis.
Currently a lot of our efforts are focused on the development of surgical glues. Ongoing projects include: