The MSOC NanoChemistry group at UCLM has worked during the last few years on different research lines which go from the production of exfoliated 2D nanomaterials for biological applications to the development of new stimuli-responsive materials, specifically in smart hybrid hydrogels. Our main research lines are further detailed below:
2D Nanomaterial production
Although the solubility of carbon nanomaterials in common solvents is very low, the dominant methods for transforming them have involved traditional chemical techniques such as refluxing and sonication in the presence of a large amount of inorganic acids or organic solvents for long periods of time.
We are using alternative techniques for the manipulation and modification of nanomaterials. , we have shown the usefulness of mechanochemical treatments for the preparation of nanomaterials, such as the milling/cutting process of carbon nanotubes or the exfoliation of graphite for the preparation of graphene. The methodology opens the way for alternative and efficient production and application of 2D nanomaterials, such as film deposition and chemical functionalization.
Use of Microwave irradiation
It has been shown that carbon nanostructures display strong microwave absorbing properties, and this behaviour has been used for their purification and functionalization. We use the microwave methodology to take full advantage of the strong microwave absorption typical of these structures. In this way, very high temperatures are obtained in just seconds providing extremely time-efficiently reactions and making new transformations possible.
This technology results in the production of multi-functionalized carbon nanotubes nanohorns, and other carbon-based nanomaterials, using a combination of two different addition reactions, the 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of azomethine ylides and the addition of diazonium salts, both via a simple, fast and environmentally friendly method. Different derivatives have been prepared with applications in materials and biomedical chemistry.
Hydrogels in Drugs realease
Hydrogels, 3D water-swollen crosslinked polymer networks, have attracted increasing attention due to their broad applicability in the biomedical field. In this research area, we focused on the study of different hydrogels and, based on their biocompatible, biodegradable or bioadhesive nature, make them bio-synthetic scaffolds of remarkable resemblance with physiological environments.
All theirs properties and characteristics allow them to be optimal scaffolds for tissue regeneration and reservoirs for controlled drug delivery. Further, by adapting the hydrogel architecture in response to certain specific stimuli, smart hydrogels can be produced for the on-off delivery of drugs or biological entities.
Soft Robotic Applications and 3D Printing
Robots are part of our lives, though when we speak about robots, we think of something useful but rigid and awkward. In the last few years, the advancements in materials science, especially those inspired by nature, have opened the door to novel soft functional materials, making the corresponding devices useful, easy to use and closer in function to living matter.
This research line aims to prepare soft intelligent materials based on hybrids hydrogels of graphene with other nanomaterials. The interdisciplinary team of chemists, physicists, and engineers will address the new materials’ synthesis, the study of their properties, and their possibility to respond to different stimuli. The mechanical and stimuli-responsive properties of hybrid nanomaterial-hydrogels make them ideal materials in preparing soft functional prototypes for applications in robotics and biomechanics, trying to emulate the characteristics of living organisms.