Polymer networks: Structure, theory, and application
Prof. Dr. Jens-Uwe Sommer
Prof. Dr. Gert Heinrich
Crosslinking processes are a major route to provide soft polymer materials with solid-state properties, such as reversible deformation and reversible swelling behaviour.
In combination with structuring processes due to preparation and self-organization, crosslinking processes are used to stabilize nanostructured materials, to control the properties of composite materials, or to prepare substrate materials for biologically active systems. Swollen polymer networks (gels) are of increasing importance in biomedical applications as well as for smart materials such as actuators, sensors, and for microfluidics/microsystem technology. Crosslinked polymers are indispensable also as construction materials, being used as elastomeric materials and composites especially in energy-efficient light-weight construction and mobility technologies.
Research on polymer networks at the IPF is focussed on overcoming deficits in understanding of correlations between molecular and supramolecular structure, topology, and properties in crosslinked polymer systems. Of particular interest are those formed in confined geometries (e.g. polymer films) or in self-assembled multi-component polymer systems. Theoretical and analytical models are developed as fundamentals for new functional and construction materials and they are verified in experiments and refined for specific applications.