Master's Thesis - Chemistry and Materials Science - Wetting of Switchable Spiropyran Surfaces

We offer a Master’s Thesis at the NeptunLab. The NeptunLab is the highly interdisciplinary research group of Prof. Bastian E. Rapp at the Department of Microsystems Technology (IMTEK) at the University of Freiburg. Research interests include the development of novel materials, technologies and processes for structuring materials and industrial applications. The work of the NeptunLab is published in the most important international journals including Lab-on-a-Chip, Advanced Materials, Angewandte Chemie and Nature and has been featured in national and international radio and print media including the BBC, the New York Times and the Discovery Channel.

Surfaces with switchable wetting properties are a useful tool for manipulating droplets on surfaces. With a surface that can be switched between hydrophilic and hydrophobic states compartments can be dynamically introduced that restrict droplet movement (“virtual wells”) that enable massively parallelized reactions in droplets on flat surfaces. Photoswitching is a convenient method for spatially controlled switching by light. Spiropyrans are a class of molecules well-known for their switching properties between hydrophobic spiropyran and hydrophilic merocyanine form (purple). Based on previously reported spiropyran surface funcationalization protocols, you will try to enhance spiropyran wetting properties by introducing a bulk or surface roughness into spiropyran-containing polymers and test the wetting properties of spiropyran gels.

Activities and responsibilities

  • synthesize mono- and bifunctional spiropyran monomers to produce spiropyran-containing polymers
  • produce foamed spiropyran containing polymers by introducing porogens into the polymerization mixture
  • test the switching of the surfaces under UV light, test the formation of patterns
  • test the switching of the contact angle on the unfoamed and foamed surfaces
  • test the formation of a photorheological spiropyran gel, analyse the gel properties

Qualification profile

  • Bachelor’s degree in chemistry or materials science or related subjects
  • Profound knowledge of chemical lab work, organic synthesis and polymer chemistry is required
  • Knowledge of surface analysis and rheology is beneficial.
  • Excellent academic track record
  • Excellent English skills in reading and writing
  • You should be a team player with ambition to solve problems and publish your results
  • You should be able to structure and document your work properly


  • An interdisciplinary work environment with a team of motivated scientists that strive to develop clever solutions for scientific as well as industrial problems
  • Well-funded projects with access to excellent state-of-the art infrastructure, generous lab space and scientific equipment
  • An aspiring young team with great emphasis on publications and publicity
  • A lab structure that promotes the development of the individual members and fosters open-minded scientific discussions
  • A strong focus on the career development of the candidate with the possibility to conduct industrially and socially relevant research with the distinct goal to produce scientific publications
  • An environment that supports start-up mentality – if your research is industrially applicable and promising, we will move towards commercialization of your solution

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