Polymers, surfactants, and colloidal – nanoparticle - dispersions are the building blocks of soft matter. Their biological counterparts: biomacromolecules, biocolloids (e.g. blood or milk) and biosurfactants such as lipids, are the building blocks of life. In this course we introduce the physical behavior of such materials, starting from the molecular level and up to bulk and interfacial properties. The course is suitable for physical chemists, physicists, and materials scientists interested in soft and biological matter, as well as for students in biological/life-sciences with an interest in the physical behaviour of biomolecules and biomaterials (e.g. molecular forces, biolubrication, cell-surface interactions etc).
These is a particularly useful course for those interested in nano-sciences and nanotechnology, where interactions and surfaces play a major role.
- Basic concepts; Some unifying ideas of molecular structure, length and energy scales in polymeric and colloidal systems of synthetic and of biological origins.
- Intermolecular and intersurface interactions: van der Waals forces, electrostatic effects, hydrophobic effects; Association in non-polar and in aqueous solutions. Concepts of stabilisation and aggregation in colloidal (nanoparticle) fluids.
- Surfactants and lipids: aggregation, bilayers, vesicles, liposomes and more complex structures
- Basic concepts of viscosity, friction and lubrication; Confined fluids: confinement-induced liquid-to-solid transitions; confinement of water; hydration layers
- Large flexible molecules: The statistical approach in polymer physics; Properties of the single polymer chain: ideal and real chains. Excluded volume effects.
- Thermodynamics in polymer mixtures. Scaling concepts as a simplifying description; ideality in polymer melts. Polymer gels: structure and elasticity
- Dynamics of the single chain and of entangled chains. The tube model and reptation. Dynamics of non-linear chains.
- Solid/liquid interfaces in colloids; Interfacial effects in polymer mixtures
- Polymers near surfaces: adsorption, self similar surface structures and polymer brushes. The concept of entropic forces. Steric stabilisation of colloidal dispersions. Friction and lubrication effects with polymers
- Charged polymers: polyelectrolytes and polyzwitterions; Structure, ion-condensation effects and behaviour at surfaces and interfaces.
- Hydration and biological lubrication; some applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine