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Utilising inherent properties of biopolymer mixtures for the structural designing of complex systems

Published on
July 29, 2022
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Biopolymer mixtures are readily available in nature. Utilising their intrinsic potential to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation is an energy-efficient process. The Oparin-Haldabe theory believes that the first life took shape in a coacervate system in the oceans due to their natural self-assembly properties.

Multicomponent biopolymer systems often experience associative and segregative phase separation where the system can follow either of the pathways fractionating in a polymer-dense and polymer-poor phases spontaneously. Coacervates, as coined by a Dutch chemist in 1929, are an intermediate stage between single-phase and phase-separated systems that are affected by numerous variables while holding properties of a macrophase-separated system. Electrostatic forces, bulk and net charges, and biopolymer concentration play a significant role, among others, in such a process of self-assembly.

Research questions (Thesis areas):

  • Develop an understanding of how altering charge densities affect the phase separation process and evaluate the system reversibility.
  • Impact of thermal energy and diffusion on the condensate systems for the formation of irreversible covalent linkages to form microcapsules or hydrogels.
  • Designing an emulsifier for mickering emulsions for adhesives, colloidal gels and encapsulation.
  • Studying rheology, interfacial stabilisation and wetting kinetics of biopolymer complexes.
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Read more about past students, experimental details, methods and approach: Biopolymer group.

The topic is open to both - BSc and MSc students. Don't hesitate to contact me for a detailed topic discussion and thesis scope at: nirzar.doshi@wur.nl or LinkedIn.

Additional possibilities: We also work on a collaboration project with Dr Siddharth Deshpande's group (PCC) Emergent Biological Systems.