Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - SOCON (Self-Organisation under Confinement)

The focus of the network was on aqueous films, which are either confined between two solid surfaces or by air (foam film) or oil (emulsion film), respectively. We put emphasis on complex self-organising systems of environmentally friendly components, such as sugar-based surfactants and polymeric carbohydrate derivatives, but we also used traditional surfactants and polymers. The interest in the former class of surfactants and polymers was motivated by the fact that they can be made from renewable materials and that they have favourable properties with respect to applications in various fields. As most applications explore surfactant mixtures as well as surfactant-polymer mixtures, a lot of the work performed was dedicated to multi-component systems.

The enormous success of the project, the high visibility of the research work performed, and the productivity of the research activities are well documented by the large number of projects, publications, conference contributions and contacts with external academic and industrial partners. It is worth mentioning that a total of 37 joint projects (ongoing and planned) will be pursued after the end of the project although EC funding will no longer be available. This large number of projects initiated by the network and carried on by 11 out of 13 teams can be considered a very important success and illustrates the ways in which the high potential of the ERA can be exploited with the help of cross-border European research funding.

A general understanding of the relations between self-organisation in bulk, at single interfaces and under confinement has been reached. Please note that this was one of the most important and challenging aims of the network's original research programme. This understanding will help to predict and control the properties of complex colloidal systems such as foams, emulsions and dispersions and thus promote product and process development.

A more profound understanding of surfactant mixtures, polymers, and of mixed polymer-surfactant systems has been achieved and the teams involved in this work have suggestions as to how commercial products and / or production processes can be improved. Close contacts with various industrial companies make economic exploitation of the newly generated knowledge very likely.

The successful synthesis of novel composite polymers and surfactants from natural building blocks is another major research outcome of the project. The characterisation of the new polymers and surfactants revealed a huge potential for their use as new environmentally friendly compounds in products and processes based on complex colloidal systems.

The Early-stage (ESR) and Experienced (ER) researchers appointed by the network participated in a wide variety of generic and specific research training events which provided the ESR and ER with ample opportunities to broaden their knowledge and expertise in the network-related research areas. Moreover, the appointed researchers attended a large number of international conferences and workshops, thus significantly improving their presentation (and other complementary) skills as well as opening up various career opportunities. Seven early-stage researchers were awarded PhD degrees in the context of their SOCON appointments, which illustrates the cutting-edge nature of the research performed by the network as a whole. Altogether, a total of 17 ESR and 22 ER were trained during the project, with appointment durations ranging between 3 and 36 months.

In this way, the project made significant contributions to the research training of 39 young scientists who, in turn, are expected to build upon and apply the newly acquired knowledge and expertise in their future careers in academia, industry or administration, thereby helping to enhance the competitiveness and attractiveness of the European Research Area.

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