3D-imagning gives a deeper view into cavities

​Charlotte Hamngren Blomqvist, PhD at the department of Physics active within SuMo Biomaterials, recently defended her PhD- thesis on 3D-imaging of Silica Hydro gels. 
Hello Charlotte! You have been studying methods for analysing porous materials. What did you find?
In my thesis I mainly look at three things that electron tomography, 3D-imaging at a nano scale in transmission electron microscopy, can be used for.
One area is imaging of irregular porous structures in 3D, which makes quantification of the structure possible. This isn’t possible in 2D. We can now describe the porous structure in quantitative terms instead of only using images. We have also characterised the material by showing the inter-connectivity of the pores and also the accessible fraction of the pore volume.
My research is also contributing to the possibility to validate the different mathematical models that are used to understand exactly which mechanism that dominates the process of gelation. 
My thesis also shows how we can model fluids flowing through the gel locally on the nano scale in 3D. This enables us to draw conclusions about the permeability in different parts within the material. What’s new here is that the structure that is used for the modelling of the flow is the very same as the structure detected experimentally in 3D by electron tomography.

Why is it important to be able to determine the structure of porous materials?
Porous materials are used for many different purposes in our daily life. To be able to understand a material and its characteristics basically, for example ability to transport fluid or an active substance, we have to investigate its structure.

Is it a new thing to use electron microscopy for this purpose? And if that is the case, will the thesis have impact on how porous materials will be explored in the future?
What’s new is to use electron tomography for 3D-imaging of soft and porous materials with the two focus areas mass transport simulation directly in the structure and modelling studies of gelation mechanisms. 3D-imaging as a concept is usable and desirable when imaging porous materials, since a 2D-image often gives a misleading impression of the material.
I certainly hope that my research will have impact! 3D-imaging of porous materials at the nano scale could potentially be of use in a number of fields of current interest such as medical technology and pharmaceutical technology, packaging materials, health care, food science, tissue engineering, catalysis, development of batteries, fuel cells and solar cells.

What will you do now when your PhD studies are over?
I want to continue to research, either in the industry or the academy. This far I have mainly been working with fundamental research. Now I want to move towards more applied research. It is appealing to explore and develop something that in the long run contributes to a more sustainable society or that increases the life quality for those in need.

How do you experience working with SuMo Biomaterials? 
The SuMo-collaboration has given me much. The centre has provided an important network for our interdisciplinary collaborations, both within the academy and with the industry. AkzoNobel has been my main industrial partner and the collaboration has been very rewarding. It has also been interesting to take part of so many other researcher’s work and see their progress over many years.

SuMo Biomaterials is a Vinnova (Swedish government agency) supported centre and research consortium between academia (Chalmers University of Technology and SP Food and Bioscience) and industry (AkzoNobel, AstraZeneca, Mölnlycke Health Care, SCA, Stora Enso and Tetra Pak). The focus of the centre is on understanding and developing properties of soft biomaterials.
The concept of SuMo Biomaterials is to use industrial needs to create innovations and academic excellence in science with the long term goal to generate added value for industry, academia and society.

Page manager Published: Mon 06 Mar 2017.