Amphiphilic Polymers in Biological Sensing

Synthesising polystyrene in cyclohexane under argon atmosphere

The research is focussed on utilizing self-organization principles to achieve goals within nanotechnology. The basic competence in the group is the ability to identify and synthesize (polymer) molecules that can solve a specific task. The group seeks suitable tasks through cross-disciplinary collaborations. As described in the discussion of self-organization below it is expected that each new task will require a unique solution.

The amphiphilic polymers in biological sensing group is headed by Kristoffer Almdal

Research areas

New polymers for microtechnology

Self-organization has been perfected by nature to form the building blocks of living organisms. The present abilities of artificial self-organizing systems are bleak compared to nature and thus there is room for much development. Self-organization is based on a clever combination of incompatibility and connections. In other word the systems have build in both driving forces to separate and structures to prevent separation. If these two tendencies - separation and connection - are balanced correctly interesting structures ensue. By definition self-organization is a cooperative process; many molecules must find their position in some structure without actively being placed in the position. Apparently the desired structures are most likely obtained when the driving force for the single molecule are not too strong. In an analogy with landscapes it is easier to find your way to the lowest point in a soft rolling hill landscape that in a ragged mountain chain. You are less likely to get stuck in the wrong valley where steep sides could make it hard to get back out. In physical systems it is the free energy landscape that governs the behaviour. Soft contour free energy maps are generally found close to phase transitions and self-organised systems in nature are often close to phase transitions, that is, close to condition where they are no longer stable. A consequence of the need to balance the different driving force carefully is that one cannot expect to build a large variety of things with the same building blocks. The building block need to be fine tuned to the task at hand,

In Modifying Polymers for Optimal Usages in Microfluidic Applications self-organization principles are utilized to engineer the hydrophilicity of materials used in micro-devices. A particularly important aspect of this project is the development of characterization tools for mapping hydrophilicity on non-planar surfaces (read more). The projects is conducted in collaboration with the Nano Bio Integrated Systems group and DTU CEN.

In New Tough Materials for Micro Devices tougher epoxy based materials used for micro devices are sought (read more). The project is conducted in collaboration with the Nanoprobes group

New methods for polymer characterization

An integral part of new materials development is to constantly improve on polymer characterization tools. Minituriazation of polymer degradation experiments is investigated as an alternative to the acceleration techniques of increased temperature and harsh chemical environments. The project is conducted in the NAMEC center in collaboration with the NanoProbes Group.

Model branched polystyrenes are synthesized for studying elongational rheology at high extension rates. A project starting April 1, 2013 Entangled Polymer Melts in Extensional Flow sponsored by The Danish Council for Independent Research | Natural Sciences in collaboration with DTU Chemical Engineering and The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen will sponsor continue this work by investigating the elongational rheology as well at the structure of the stretched melts based on custom synthesized selectively labelled model polystyrenes.

Block copolymer Phase Behaviour has been a long standing interest. At present investigations on ABC terblock copolymers – especially star block copolymers (link?) are starting through a grant from the Villum Foundation for a post doc in this area. The project is conducted in collaboration with the Self-Organized Nanoporous Materials group and The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. 

Interfaces and surfaces

In interfaces in composites materials the goal is to achieve understanding and control of the structures that determine the interfacial strength and the resulting influence of this strength on the macroscopic mechanical properties of the composite. Composite materials are used for a wide variety of application such as wind turbine blades and restorative dental materials. Among other things will analyse the sizing on commercial glass fibres and the mechanical properties of flat interfaces with model sizing (read more). This work is part of the Strategic Research Council Sponsored Danish Centre for Composite Structures and Materials for Wind Turbines (DCCSM).

Interfaces between organic material (polymers) and inorganic fillers play an important role in the dental composites. This is explored in the zirconia nanofiller project (read more).

In polymer based microtechnology and lab-on-a-chip systems the surface properties is of paramount importance. A project investigating characterization of hydrophilicity of complex surfaces model additives to be used e.g. in injection moulding are being synthesize with the aim of influencing the hydrophilicity of the surfaces (read more).

Interfaces are also at the center of the involvement of a project aimed at incapsulation of flame retardant where the objective of the effort is to get in incapsulated flame retardants to stick to various materials that need to be flame protect (read more).

Membranes are a special kind of interface. A biological membrane is a complex host for a large range of function that are among many other tasks necessary to uphold the steady-steady environment e.g. within a cell. Artificial membranes usually serve a much more specific purpose. In collaboration with Aquaporin A/S and DTU Physics we seek to develop block copolymer based membranes that can horst the water canal membrane protein aquaporin for water purification purposes (read more). 


Biomaterials are “materials used in devices, intended to interact with biological systems”. This kind of advanced use materials in general and polymeric materials in particular have very substantial interest from an applications point of view. Projects in the group range from use of biodegradable materials for drug encapsulation in microcontainers (read more); biodegradable implants (Handan’s project); and functional inorganic fillers in restorative dental composites (read more).


Group Leader

Kristoffer Almdal
DTU Nanotech
45 25 81 44