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.
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