GRK 2154 - Materials for Brain

GRK Colloquium talk by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Anna Coclite: Functional thin polymer films deposited from the vapor phase and their application as sensors and drug delivery devices

Institute of Solid State Physics, Graz University of Technology, Austria

Aug 15, 2019 from 04:45 PM to 06:00 PM

TF, Aquarium

Stimuli-responsive materials are characterized by dynamic switching of their properties depending on external stimuli (e.g. light, pH, temperature, humidity). In particular, hydrogels change their size and shape when exposed to aqueous environments. Functional and responsive surfaces have been successfully deposited by initiated Chemical Vapor Deposition (iCVD) on a variety of substrates. iCVD allows to obtain stimuli-responsive thin films with high chemical specificity and this is important to obtain a large responsiveness amplitude. In addition, the thin film form allows obtaining fast response.
Fast response and large signal amplitude are fundamental requirements for good sensors. Fast and ultra-fast humidity sensors based on the optical detection of the change in thickness of the iCVD hydrogels will be shown. The setup was designed without electric components in the vicinity of the active sensor layer and is therefore applicable in harsh environments such as explosive or corrosive ones. The implemented sensor prototype delivered reproducible relative humidity values and the achieved response time for an abrupt change of the humidity was about three times faster compared to one of the fastest commercially available sensors on the market.
Another case of study will be presented in the field of multi-stimuli-responsive materials. A chemical functionalization of the hydrogel surface was performed to add multiple stimuli-responsive functionalities and obtain a smart material that responds to two stimuli at the same time. Modifying the hydrogel surface with solution-based methods is often problematic because of the damages caused by the permeation of solvents in the hydrogel. This issue is completely bypassed by the use of solvent-free techniques, like iCVD. Such polymers were used as drug encapsulants to achieve controlled drug release upon stimuli, with possible application as wound dressings.


Dr. Anna Maria Coclite is Associate Professor in the Institute of Solid State Physics of the Graz University of Technology, from January 2018, after being assistant professor at the same institution from 2013. From 2010 to 2013, she has been postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Prof. Karen K. Gleason’s group, Department of Chemical Engineering. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry with the highest honors from the University of Bari, Italy in 2004 and 2006, respectively, and her Ph.D. degree in Chemical Science from the same institution in 2010.
Since from her PhD, she performed intense research activity in the frame of material science and of Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) with a great variety of different and original approaches. Her current research interests include thin films technologies, nanomaterials, and surface chemistry. At the TUGraz she has set up several depositions chambers, for plasma enhanced CVD, initiated CVD atomic and molecular layer deposition. She is currently supervisor of five Master students, five PhD students and a postdoc. Three research projects have been granted to her, from the EU and from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). In particular, she won an ERC starting grant in 2016 of 1.5 million euro to fund her research. She is the first woman winning an ERC starting grant in the TU Graz and the first one receiving it in Physics.
She has authored more than 50 publications, including two book chapters (Wiley and Springer) and several review papers. She has served as invited speaker and moderator in international conferences and as guest editor for the journals Thin Solid Films and Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Letters. In 2015, she was awarded in a worldwide competition among young scientists to participate to the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting.


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