Polymer brushes, that is, polymer chains tethered to a surface, are exceptional structures which have attracted interest because of their great potential for the development of sensing platforms. In this project, we focus on fluorescence techniques which offer inherent nanometer scale resolution to provide essential information on polymer brush structure, conformation, density and distance between neighboring chains. Polymer brushes with fluorescent labels bound to the support, the end of the polymer chain and along the polymer chain will allow for tracing minute chemical changes in the surrounding medium based either on the properties of the fluorophore (fluorescent pH indicators, fluorophores sensitive to polarity) or by conformational changes of the brush (for instance, the response of polyelectrolytes to solution pH), which can be probed by Förster resonance energy transfer. The main objectives of this project thus are (i) to use fluorescence to obtain new, spatially resolved information about properties and behavior of polymer brushes and (ii) to use this information for developing chemical sensors.
The applicants are expected to focus at fluorescence spectroscopy (both steady-state and time-resolved techniques will be used) studies of polymer brushes in aqueous media. They should have good knowledge of physical chemistry and polymer science and basic laboratory skills. The previous experience with fluorescence spectroscopy (in particular, with fluorescence measurements at surfaces) is an advantage but it is not required.