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Molecular nano-factories research receives ERC Grant of 2 million Euros

Published on: 25 November, 2009

The European Research Council (ERC) of the European Union has awarded prof. dr. Bert Meijer of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands an Advanced Grant of two million Euros. The prestigious grant of the European Union is only awarded to the best European researchers.

Photo: Maarten Schuth

The money allows Meijer to explore the area of non-covalent synthesis of functional supramolecular systems. These supramolecular systems can be seen as small molecular factories built from molecules connected via weak interactions. They possess unique properties and have a range of possible applications.

With the grant, Meijer will appoint six new PhD students and two postdoctoral coworkers. Meijer: “I’m very happy and feel grateful for being awarded this grant. I see it as a great stimulus for our group to continue the science and engineering we’re doing.”

Meijers group introduced a new class of materials, called supramolecular polymers. He showed for the first time that polymers, that are not consisting of long chains in which the repeating units are bound by strong (covalent) interactions but connected by weaker (non-covalent) interactions, can have very good and unique materials properties. The research foreseen will allow him to make the next step in the development of these materials and to introduce more complex functionalities to these supramolecular systems.

The research project will start early in 2010 and has two main directions. By studying the mechanisms of the formation of supramolecular polymers, the scope and limitations of this new class of polymer systems will be investigated. This knowledge will be used to design, synthesize and self-assemble materials that dynamically adapt their properties upon external stimuli. These materials will also be applied as biomaterials in close cooperation with dr. Patricia Dankers of the TU/e, to make parts of a prototype bioartificial kidney. Hopefully this will lead to an improvement of current dialysis techniques and later maybe also to portable dialysis equipment.

Another challenge is in the in the realization of compartmentalized nanoparticles, molecular factories with multiple functionalities united in one very long and folded molecule. In order to achieve the best possible polymer systems, novel techniques to synthesize well-defined polymers with controlled sequence are introduced. Together with dr. ir. Anja Palmans of the TU/e, these new systems will be studied as molecular containers.

Prof. dr. E.W. “Bert” Meijer is a University Professor, scientific director of the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems and has a chair in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry; all at the Eindhoven University of Technology.