Utilising inherent properties of biopolymer mixtures for the structural designing of complex systems

Biopolymer mixtures are readily available in nature. Utilising their intrinsic potential to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation is an energy-efficient process. The Oparin-Haldabe theory believes that the first life took shape in a coacervate system in the oceans due to their natural self-assembly properties.

Multicomponent biopolymer systems often experience associative and segregative phase separation where the system can follow either of the pathways fractionating in a polymer-dense and polymer-poor phases spontaneously. Coacervates, as coined by a Dutch chemist in 1929, are an intermediate stage between single-phase and phase-separated systems that are affected by numerous variables while holding properties of a macrophase-separated system. Electrostatic forces, bulk and net charges, and biopolymer concentration play a significant role, among others, in such a process of self-assembly

Research questions (Thesis areas):

  • Develop an understanding of how altering charge densities affect the phase separation process and evaluate the system reversibility.
  • Impact of thermal energy and diffusion on the condensate systems for the formation of irreversible covalent linkages to form microcapsules or hydrogels
  • Designing an emulsifier for mickering emulsions for adhesives, colloidal gels and encapsulation
  • Studying rheology, interfacial stabilisation and wetting kinetics of biopolymer complexes

Approach and methods:

We employ static and dynamic light scattering for the particle size distribution of our simple/complex coacervate systems. We are using different spectroscopic, microscopic imaging and analysis to aid in understanding the composition of colloidal soft matter particles. Furthermore, we employ various experimental methods to reduce redundant data and add a novel analysis perspective to understand the phase behaviour of multicomponent systems better. We intend to use ζ – potential, rheology, differential scanning calorimeters, light scattering coupled with centrifuges and more.

The topic is open to both – BSc and MSc students. Don’t hesitate to contact me for a more detailed topic discussion and scope at: nirzar.doshi@wur.nl or LinkedIn.

Additional possibilities: We work on collaboration projects with Dr Siddharth Deshpande’s group (PCC) Emergent Biological Systems.

Current/Past thesis students:

Ziyu Li (MSc) – Encapsulation model systems for bioactive molecules

Hanneke Dickhof (MSc) – Utilising phase properties to develop biopolymeric microgels

Georgia Palauvouzi (MSc) – TBD

Manou Kennis (MSc) – TBD

Ellen Hollak (MSc) – TBD

Devie Van Beek (MSc) – TBD

TBD: To be determined