Platform Grant: Novel Polymers and Colloids for Soft Nanotechnology

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Much of the health and comfort associated with modern life is due to the discovery and development of polymers, otherwise known as plastics and rubbers. Polymers are long-chain molecules made from many similar links (monomers). In this proposal we will examine five new research themes that will build on our previous studies in basic/applied polymer science and hopefully lead to exciting new breakthroughs that are expected to impact on biomedical research and encapsulation/release technologies for both consumer products and improved crop yields. Each of these areas is of importance to UK industry and will help to maintain the international competitiveness of UK plc.Prof. Armes and Prof. Ryan have a wide range of experience of designing polymer molecules to form specific shapes. If we make a long-chain polymer where one half of the chain loves water (hydrophilic) and the other half of the chain hates water (hydrophobic), then what happens when we put this polymer into water? About a hundred chains will organise themselves so that all the hydrophobic components form a spherical ball with all the hydrophilic components surrounding these balls and protecting them from the water. These objects are called micelles, they have diameters that are 1000 times smaller than a human hair, and the process by which they are formed is called self-assembly. If the hydrophobic chain is longer than the hydrophilic chain, then 'worm-like' micelles are formed, rather than spherical micelles. Further increasing the relative length of the hydrophobic chain leads to the formation of hollow particles called vesicles (with water located both inside and outside the particles). These three types of self-assembled objects are formed spontaneously, which means that external energy is required. We wish to study both the fundamental self-assembly processes that govern the formation of micelles and vesicles and also to explore potential applications of these new smart materials.We will build on our previous studies by examining five new research themes. We will build hollow particles, about the size of biological cells, which have gates or valves in their surfaces so that we can open or close them with an appropriate trigger, to deliver their contents. We will spin fibres that are 100 times thinner than a human hair using polymers that are biodegradable; these new fibres will be used like scaffolding to grow new skin and bone by a process called tissue engineering. We will make new polymer gels for drug delivery and cell culture: the surface of these gels will be designed to be very similar to that of biological cells so the gels will not be attacked by the body's immune system. Finally, we will continue to develop and test theories that predict self-assembly process using the most advanced experimental techniques. This Platform Grant will provide vital underpinning funding to enable Prof. Armes and Prof. Ryan to collaborate with considerable freedom over a range of topics that are of central importance to their independent research programmes. Since their individual expertise is highly complementary, this will deliver exciting 'value-added' science that could not be achieved by either researcher independently. Both scientists have international reputations and excellent track records in disseminating their results to the academic community. In addition, Prof. Ryan has been particularly successful in his Public Understanding of Science activities, which culminated in the recent award of an OBE for 'services to science'.

Publications

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Balmer J (2010) Unexpected Facile Redistribution of Adsorbed Silica Nanoparticles Between Latexes in Journal of the American Chemical Society

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Blanazs A (2012) Sterilizable gels from thermoresponsive block copolymer worms. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

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Blanazs A (2011) Mechanistic insights for block copolymer morphologies: how do worms form vesicles? in Journal of the American Chemical Society

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Chambon P (2012) How does cross-linking affect the stability of block copolymer vesicles in the presence of surfactant? in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

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Fielding LA (2014) Thermo-responsive diblock copolymer worm gels in non-polar solvents. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

 
Description We discovered RAFT aqueous dispersion polymerisation, a powerful formulation in the context of polymerisation-induced self-assembly (PISA). This has enabled us to design a wide range of bespoke block copolymer nano-objects of controllable size, shape and surface chemistry.

We are now world-leading in the field of PISA and are working with a wide range of UK companies in this area.
Exploitation Route P & G: flocculants for fragrance microcapsules
Lubrizol: new lubricating nanoparticles for engine oils
Scott Bader: new thickeners for cosmetic oils
Ashland: new hair care formulations
GEO: new markets for their methacrylic monomers
GE Healthcare: possible long-term storage medium for T-cells
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Other

 
Description DSM
Amount £240,000 (GBP)
Organisation DSM 
Sector Private
Country Netherlands
Start  
 
Description DSM
Amount £240,000 (GBP)
Organisation DSM 
Sector Private
Country Netherlands
Start