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POMCAPS Report Summary

Project ID: 307280
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: France

Final Report Summary - POMCAPS (Self-organisation at two length-scales: generation and characterisation of porous materials with chemically and physically modified surfaces)

Porous materials are heavily exploited in a wide range of applications thanks to their rich properties which result from the presence of an intricate pore network. For the optimisation of many applications it is not only important to control the organisation of the pores, but also the properties of their surfaces. The POMCAPS project therefore tackled the challenge of establishing new methodologies for the generation of porous solids with simultaneous control over both properties. Using liquid foams and emulsions as templates, the POMCAPS team worked in close collaboration with physicists, physical chemists and chemists in order to understand and exploit self-ordering phenomena at two length scales. The first length scale concerns the millimetric scale of bubbles and drops, while the second length scale relates to the nanometre-sized interfacially active agents (polymers or nanoparticles) which adsorb to the bubble/drop surfaces in order to stabilise the foam/emulsion. We successfully developed approaches to characterise the organisational phenomena at both scales and to be able to control it. Solidification of the obtained liquid foams and emulsions provided us with the desired porous materials whose structure/property relations we investigated.

The POMCAPS project contributed important results in different domains. At the bubble/drop scale we could push further our understanding of how bubbles/drops pack in foams/emulsions under gravity and in the presence of boundaries. At the scale of the interfaces, we investigated the self-assembly of different interfacially active agents – and we were able to relate the interfacial properties to the outstanding stability of foams/emulsions stabilised by these agents. We were also the first to push forward the in-situ formation of stabilising agents by chemical reactions as an efficient means to stabilise non-aqueous emulsions – and to control their interfacial properties. We developed a number of Lab-on-a-Chip techniques with integrated flow chemistry to combine our understanding at the bubble and interfacial scale in order to make liquid foam/emulsion templates which can be solidified. Using these well-controlled systems we put in evidence new interfacially-driven mechanisms which arise during foam/emulsion solidification. We could exploit some of these mechanisms for unprecedented control over the structural properties of porous solids. Last but not least, we established a first set of structure/property relations of the obtained materials which open promising perspectives for a new control over the properties of porous materials.

The POMCAPS project has already produced 29 publications in internationally recognised journals in a wide range of domains. The PI has been invited to give keynote/plenary lectures at 14 international conferences on the matter, and the team members presented the results at numerous national and international events. Moreover, a certain number of new methodologies has been developed, which were either communicated via publications or which continue to be developed within the framework of a technology transfer towards industry. Last but not least, the POMCAPS members participated in a number of outreach activities, including newspaper articles, video documentations, artist residencies and different science festivals.

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