Research Overview

Our research interests revolve around the intricate balance of order and disorder in materials as a tool to induce structure formation on the nanoscopic or microscopic length scale and thus control or tailor the materials properties. For instance, we aim to not just accept the inevitable presence of disorder in otherwise ordered materials, but rather to embrace it as an important feature and attempt to control and utilize it to guide the overall structure formation. We make use of chemical reactions in ordered phases in order to control product selectivity. And we exploit order-disorder transitions in supramolecular networks to tailor the materials’ frequency-dependent mechanical response.

Key Research Areas

The defining elements of our investigations are the notion of “inducing order through disorder”, the use of amide hydrogen bonding for the formation of well-defined one-dimensional aggregates, and performing chemical reactions in ordered phases to produce novel materials. In our three key research areas, we aim to universally apply these concepts to either guide chemical reactivity of metastable molecular precursors for carbon nanomaterials, control the electronic properties in organic semiconductor nanostructures, or tailor the bulk mechanical properties in supramolecular materials.
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Functional Carbon Nanomaterials at Room TemperatureCarbon nanomaterials offer intriguing perspectives for applications in emerging technologies such as hydrogen storage, lithium storage, transition metal free catalysis, or photovoltaics. A better control over surface chemistry, carbon structure, nanoscopic morphology, and microstructure would be desirable but has so far been excluded by the high-energy processes employed for their (…)

Organic Electronic Materials with 1D and 2D NanostructuresOrganic nanowirefs are model systems for the investigation of charge transport in organic semiconductors under nanoscopic confinement, and may serve as potential building blocks for integrated circuits in the future. However, reliable structure-property relationships between the molecular parameters, the intermolecular π–π interactions, the nature of the charge carriers, (…)

Supramolecular networks that make use of specific non-covalent interactions furnish elastomer materials with superior processing and self-healing properties. However, they typically lack the hierarchical structure formation on different length scales observed in biomaterials that could be employed to tailor their mechanical properties. We prepared novel supramolecular materials based on oligopeptide-modified polymers that gave rise to (…)

Expertise and Infrastructure

Being part of the thriving materials community at EPFL, we aim to complement our chemistry-driven interest in structure formation on the supramolecular level with a broader materials science perspective, investigating the structure of macromolecular and organic materials at all length scales, with an attention to bulk properties, applications, and devices. Towards this goal, our laboratory has built up an extensive expertise and infrastructure ranging from chemical synthesis over characterization by a broad variety of spectroscopy, imaging, and diffraction methods to electronic device fabrications and macroscopic investigation of mechanical and electric properties.