Applied Surface Chemistry forms together with Polymer Technology, Biopolymer Technology and Pharmaceutical Technology the Division Applied Chemistry.
Research at Applied Surface Chemistry is broad in scope and includes both “dry” and “wet” surface chemistry. Within the area heterogeneous catalysis there is an emphasis on emission control catalysis, mainly automotive applications but there are activities toward emission control for vessels as well. There is also ongoing research on catalytic cracking, hydrogenation of oils, and catalytic alkylation. The Competence Center for Catalysis, KCK, with a focus on automotive catalysis and with a history that dates back to 1996, is the most important part of this research. KCK has its hub at Applied Surface Chemistry. The petrochemical industry is also heavily involved in the catalysis research.
Within nanomaterials there are several projects that take advantage of the ability of amphiphiles to self-associate and form distinct structures with dimensions in the nanometer regime. Such structures can be utilized as templates to create inorganic materials – metals as well as metal oxides – with controlled dimensions and geometries. Nanoparticles, nanowires and so-called mesoporous oxide materials have been prepared by this route. Examples of applications include catalysts for emission control, electrode materials for fuel cells, and porous media in which enzymes and metal-organic homogeneous catalysts can be inserted. Within the nanomaterials area there is also research related to thermoelectric materials and to electrodes for fuel cells.
Electrolytes for fuel cells and batteries
A new research field is electrolytes for fuel cells and batteries. Special attention is paid to ionic liquids, which in recent years are attracting interest for such applications.
Bionanomaterials, i.e., nanomaterials with applications withing biotechnology and biomedicine, is a growing research field at Applied Surface Chemistry. Dental implants are one important application of the research and a company has been established to commercialize the concept that has been developed.
One project is focused on developing an efficient way to dissolve cellulose without the use of organic solvents. The dissolved cellulose will subsequently, after addition of additives, be spun into fibers. The project is part of a larger programme which aims at replacing cotton fibers with cellulose fibers for use for textile applications. Another project is directed towards hydrophobation of paper. In the paper-making process an emulsion of a hydrophobic polymer is often added with the purpose of making the paper less sensitive to water. The added amounts of the polymer are usually very small and there is a lack of knowledge about the mechanism behind the hydrophobation. The project aims at increasing the understanding of the process by the use of model studies, where surface analysis techniques such as QCM-D and AFM are important tools.
One group studies structure and structure dynamics of supramolecular materials such as gels, gel emulsions and the cellulose fiber. NMR diffusometry is the most important measuring technique and in some of the projects it is combined with different types of microscopy. This combination has proven very powerful for studies of transport in complex heterogeneous media. The transport can relate to water but also to active substances such as drug molecules. The knowledge created has relevance for the food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for producers of diapers. This research is at the core of the Vinn Excellence Center for Supramolecular Biomaterials, SuMo, which has its hub at Applied Surface Chemistry. One group is engaged in encapsulation of biocides and antimold compounds into small organic capsules. These capsules are mixed into paints with the purpose to obtain coatings that are resistant to fungi and mould. A company has been created to commercialize this research. Another project aims at the development of a system for controlled release of bactericides into chronical wounds.
Yet another area concerns surfactants, in particular amphiphiles that break down readily in the environment. New types of gemini surfactants and amino-acid based surfactants are in focus. The work comprises both synthesis and physical-chemical evaluation. Surface active silica particles are prepared by a procedure that has recently been patented together with a company. Such particles are of interest for stabilization of emulsions and foams.
Organic and bioorganic synthesis
Organic and bioorganic synthesis is performed in nanostructured media, such as microemulsions and suspensions of mesoporous materials, and organic gels.