Project Areas

Defect Categories


Soft Matter Categories                                                                                                                                     



Project Descriptions


A01 – Budker/Ermakova

Real-Time Nanoscale Investigation of Soft Matter Defects

The structure and formation of various soft matter systems, like peptide nanofibers, are not as yet fully understood. We will investigate dynamic processes of structural changes within a single nanofiber (1D) as well as 2D and 3D nanogel nanofiber systems by developing novel measurement techniques. This experimental method is based on quantum sensing and imaging with color centers (nitrogen-vacancy center) in nanodiamonds.

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A02 – Wittmann

Tuning hybrid molecule/magnetic interfaces by defect engineering

Doping systems of small molecules and polymers with additives has been shown to be a highly efficient method for varying the charge carrier density over multiple orders of magnitude. Here, we aim to investigate the impact of doping on the spin transport mechanisms in organic semiconductors by probing the change in the effective spin-to-charge conversion efficiency. Furthermore, we will study the effect of defect engineering on the hybridization at the interface between the molecules and metallic thin films by probing the magnetic properties using a combination of electrical magneto-transport experiments and magnetic imaging techniques.

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A04 – Blom

Energy Transfer towards Engineered Organic Dyes that Prevent Charge Carrier Trapping

For efficient energy transfer from a host to a sensitizer to occur, sensitizers have by definition a smaller bandgap as compared to the host. With regard to charge transport in the host, these sensitizers will therefore act as defects that will severely trap charge carriers. In this project a solution is proposed where energy transfer from host to sensitizer takes place without the negative contribution of additional charge trapping. The difference in characteristic distance between energy transfer and trapping will be utilized to selectively suppress trapping by organic dyes and nanodiamonds.

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A05 – Kerzig

Visible Light driven Hydrogen Generation with Engineered Photocatalyst-Doped Micelles in Water

The generation of molecular hydrogen with visible light typically relies on multi-component systems and the absorption of two photons per catalytic turnover. We aim to explore novel hydrogen generation pathways via single-molecule catalysts with the hydrogen atom as highly reactive key species. For that, we will develop and investigate photocatalyst-doped micelles as novel hydrogen factories allowing high turnover numbers under these harsh reaction conditions. Detailed spectroscopic studies will allow us to develop these micro-heterogeneous aqueous systems and to understand the mechanisms as well as supramolecular effects.

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A06 – Dhiman

Multicomponent Supramolecular Copolymerization for Controlled Defect Engineering

A paradigm shift from precision to defect-engineered supramolecular polymers is necessary to access new material properties. This proposal aims to explore defect engineering in supramolecular polymers by harnessing intrinsic defects and introducing dopants with optimal misfit penalties. Experimental methods will be developed to identify and characterize defects and examine their formation and evolution. Defect engineering strategies using multicomponent supramolecular polymerization between monomers and dopants and their preparation pathways will be developed.

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B01 - Nikoubashman/Seiffert

Enhanced Mobility in Supramolecular Polymer Networks by Connectivity Defects

If small amounts of local connectivity defects are introduced into a non-covalently crosslinked polymer network, there is evidence that the mobility of these defective building blocks is significantly accelerated. We intend to use both experiments and molecular simulations to derive a conceptual mechanism for this defect-assisted building block migration. For this purpose, we will develop a model-network platform with hetero-complementary interconnection of highly regular star-polymer building blocks to obtain truly defect-free networks as a reference state, and then purposely impart local connectivity flaws and track the motion of the building blocks that cause them.

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B02 - Besenius

Molecular Defect-Regulated 1D Supramolecular Polymer and Hydrogel Formation using Multidomain Peptides

Multidomain peptide materials combine the structural precision of natural oligopeptide sequences with the scalability of synthetic polymers. Our aim is to develop segmented oligopeptide motifs that allow control over the ratio of intra- to inter-particle folding and therefore the branching (the defect) in 1D supramolecular polymers. These act as cross-linking sites for 1D assemblies and induce the formation of viscoelastic hydrogels, a strategy which provides control over multiple length and time scales. Using a defect engineering methodology, we aim to further develop mechanochromic hydrogels using inter-strand folding defects which are extended with mechanosensitive organic moieties.

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B03 - Besenius/Walther

Homeostatic System Behaviour to Engineer Resilience against Defects

We will take the first step toward homeostatic, self-regulating behavior in self-assembling systems and resilience engineering to defects. To this end, we will design dormant self-regulatory mechanisms in material systems that are activated by an external trigger (light pulse), where the external trigger alters a system/destroys a function and the dormant redox-based self-regulatory mechanisms allow a return to the original system. We will focus on precise redox chemistry applied to systems based on peptide self-assemblies, polymer hydrogels, and DNA-based systems.

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B04 – Czodrowski/Stelzl

Engineering water connectivity defects on nano-scale at proteins and protein interfaces

Proteins are solvated by water molecules, but they can also penetrate protein cavities such as the binding pocket and are then termed “bound water”. We consider the displacement of such bound water molecules by e.g. a ligand a “connectivity defect” since the bound water connects different parts of the protein. We aim for understanding the microscopic basis of the molecular recognition process, both from an experimental and theoretical standpoint. We will study well-characterized protein-ligand systems to design ligands leading to a specific change in the thermodynamic profile. Ultimately, we will rationalize design principles for novel ligands to better understand the molecular recognition process.

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C01 - Bleul/Maskos

Impact of Colloids as Defects on the Structure Formation of Membrane Forming Amphiphiles and Amphiphilic Block Copolymers

Micromixing technology enables control over the self-assembly process of amphiphiles and results in high reproducibility and repeatability of the properties regarding the formulation product. We intend to utilize the micromixing technology to control and gain knowledge on the self-assembly process of small synthetic, small natural or polymeric amphiphils in presence of colloidal systems. Due to different properties regarding various classes of colloids, we will investigate noble metal and silica nanoparticles, magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (spherical as well as disk-like), fluorescent nanoparticles, i.e., quantum dots, and nanodiamonds.

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C02 - Schmid

Manipulating defects with defects in block copolymer based materials 

Topological defects are omnipresent in nanostructured materials made of block copolymers, and can have a critical influence on their mechanical or transport properties. In this project, we will use numerical simulations to explore and analyse ways to control the structure and distribution of such defects in block copolymer melts by blending in dopant molecules and/or particles.  In addition, we will study the influence of particle defects on the self-assembly of block-copolymer based nanoparticles from solution and their final morphologies.

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C03 - Gerber/Walther

Dynamic Defect Annealing within Enzymatic Reaction Networks to Design Autonomous Reconfigurable ATP-Fueled Non-Equilibrium Multicomponent Systems

Combining the expertise of Walther (DNA nanoscience/systems chemistry) and Gerber (mathematical modelling/machine learning), we aim to understand and predict ATP-driven DNA-based enzymatic reaction networks (ERNs) in which structural point defects of DNA building blocks affect kinetics and autonomous structural reconfiguration. WP1 focuses on measuring kinetics and advancing system design, WP2 on formulating mathematical models for the CRNs and rapidly extending these models using machine learning approaches, while in WP3 we aim to conduct prospective model-based reviews of system behaviour arising from extra- and interpolated machine learning spaces.

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C04 - Schneider/Wahl

Understanding and Controlling Defects and their Impact on Function, Structure and Activity in Lipid Membranes

Biological membranes are composed of a plethora of different lipid species and contain integral or peripherally attached proteins, albeit many complex intramembranous interactions are still not understood. We will use synthetic, biochemical, and biophysical methods combined with atomic force microscopy to study the generation, propagation, and consequences of induced membrane defects in situ. Membrane defects will be introduced in a controlled way using small molecules, lipid modifying enzymes or membrane-binding proteins. Furthermore, we will develop novel photo-switchable phospholipid systems that can be incorporated into model membranes.

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Q01 - Budker/Ulbricht

Interdisciplinary sensing and spectroscopy

The objective of this cross-sectional project is to assist other research projects by providing advanced home-built quantum sensing and nonlinear optical spectroscopy methods for material characterization. Quantum sensing using NV centers in diamond will enable sensitive in-situ local measurements of quantities such as magnetic fields and temperature. Ultrafast spectroscopy methods will permit characterizing electronic properties and dynamics of materials, as well as vibrational properties with interfacial selectivity.

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Q02 - Liu

Optical Super-Resolution Imaging in Soft Matter Systems

Optical super-resolution microscopy (SRM) is emerging as a powerful tool for studying soft matter systems owing to its nanometric resolution, multicolor ability, and minimal invasiveness. In this cross-sectional project, we will assist individual research projects with our SRM expertise and furthermore investigate a new correlative optical microscopy and spectroscopy method with the aim to (1) image soft matter systems with improved (sub-20 nm) imaging resolution across a wide range of different environments (e.g., aqueous solution at different pH values, organic solvents, air), and (2) determine the orientation of molecules with resolution up to single molecule level.

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Q03 - Amann-Winkler

Dynamical Information through X-Rays

This cross-sectional Q-project will investigate static and dynamical properties of different polymer networks using X-ray scattering and in particular X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS). In close collaboration with projects B01 and B04, we will investigate dynamics of metallo-supramolecular building blocks as well as proteins in aqueous solutions. The method allows us to study the defect-induced network dynamics over many time- and length scales.

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Z01 - Seiffert

Administration and Coordination

The central service project provides the necessary services and facilities that underlie and support the CRC. This includes the scientific coordination of the CRC and its activities, including scientific development and application of microscopic core methods (here: electron microscopic structural analytics and confocal-microscopy-based dynamic analyses), plus management of public relations, gender equality and diversity aspects, web presence, and management of a code of conduct for the supervision of PhD theses according to the guidelines of good work of our university.


Z02 - Amann-Winkler/Besenius

Integrated Research Training Group “Defects to Effects Engineering in Materials Sciences”

An integrated research training group “Defects to Effects Engineering in Materials Sciences” (DEEMS) will be established to provide a joint structured graduate education for all students in the CRC. Within DEEMS we pursue three goals: (i) to organize lectures and talks to train young researchers in the interdisciplinary background of soft material science (ii) to ensure common standards in the education of all graduate students in the CRC, and (iii) to establish and strengthen links within the CRC at the level of graduate students and post-docs.