Development of a biodegradable underwater adhesive using complex coacervation between oppositely charged thermoresponsive graft copolymers
In this project, we are interested in the design of a completely biodegradable underwater adhesive using complex coacervation. You will be involved in the synthesis of grafted copolymers, bearing a polyelectrolyte backbone and thermoresponsive side chains. Complex coacervation will be achieved by mixing oppositely charged polyelectrolyte solutions (fig.1). A polymer-rich phase will be obtained and will be evaluated as a candidate for underwater adhesion. Every component will be biocompatible and biodegradable in order to fulfil the requirements of an injectable hydrogel for tissue repair and wound healing.
Systematic study of thermoresponsive complex coacervates as a function of the chemical structure of the polyelectrolyte precursors
The structure of the thermoresponsive graft copolymers (fig.2) used for complex coacervation is expected to play an important role in defining the properties of the final adhesive. In this project, you will develop several graft copolymers differing in architecture, backbone to side chains ratio, side chains length, backbone length and you will explore its effects on both the mechanical and adhesive properties of the coacervate phase.
Mechanical properties enhancement in complex coacervate-based materials by addition of thermoresponsive nanofillers
The addition of nanofillers (particles, fibres, clays..) is a well-known technique procedure employed in a wide range of fields to improve the mechanical properties of a material. In this project you will explore the effect of the addition of thermoresponsive hairy nanoparticles (fig.3) inside a complex coacervate matrix and evaluate the enhancement of the mechanical and of the adhesive properties as a function of nanoparticles parameters (concentration, size).
Probing the nanostructure and the internal dynamics of thermoresponsive complex coacervates for underwater adhesion
The arrangements of the polymer components at the nanoscale is expected to have a crucial role in defining the mechanical properties of the thermoresponsive coacervate. The mobility of both polyelectrolyte and water inside the coacervate phase is also expected to change as a function of temperature. However, what exactly happens at the thermal transition and how the local environment changes is not very clear: in this project you will employ a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance, fluorescence, electron microscopy and scattering techniques to shed light on this phenomenon.