Microporous films, originally described as `honeycomb films¿, are highly ordered, self-assembling polymeric films with enormous potential in biomedical and biotechnological applications; for example, as biosensors, immobilisation matrices and cell templating devices. Previous characterisation studies of these films have been limited to their surface morphology. Furthermore, the mechanism for their formation remains unclear.
This project focuses on the application of analytical neutron beam techniques, such as small angle neutron scattering (SANS), to determine the conformation of the polymer chains in microporous films and elucidate the film formation mechanism. To achieve this objective the research will progress from the application of neutron beam techniques to polymers in solution and ratios of solvent to deuterated water, to conventional films and finally to the ordered microporous arrays. Contrast variation through deuteration of the film forming polymers, as well as the innovative use of polymer probes, will also be applied. Through manipulation of the polymer properties (e.g. molecular weight) and film fabricating conditions (e.g. humidity), the project will also investigate the factors affecting the morphology of microporous films and relate these to their molecular conformation. In conducting this research the Fellow will receive dedicated training in the application and data interpretation of these powerful analytical tools.
The proposal supports the two main strategic objectives of the EU 6FP in that it facilitates a strengthening of the scientific and technological base as well as increasing its international competitiveness through the formation of a strategic international collaboration. - The knowledge gained from this research will be a leap forward in the field and permits the technological design of polymers for microporous films with controlled properties.
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