Microgels with Special Functions




Thomas Eckert

Institute of Physical Chemistry


+49 241 80 94749



On May 23, 2012, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced its decision to provide funding for the new RWTH Collaborative Research Center SFB 985, “Functional Migrogels and Microgel Systems.” Thus the University’s initiatives  to strengthen the natural sciences and extend collaboration with Forschungszentrum Jülich, launched under Germany’s Excellence Initiative, will receive a further boost.


The University promotes the natural sciences as one of its core competencies to sustain a fruitful exchange with the engineering fields, and in this way to maintain and improve its international competitiveness.

The success of this strategy has been recently demonstrated by the approval of grants for interdisciplinary research projects and by current rankings lists, such as the CHE and Wirtschaftswoche university rankings and the DFG Funding Atlas.

Key Research Areas of the new SFB

The new Collaborative Research Center/SFB is concerned with the investigation and development of hydrogels and hydrogel systems. Apart from the fact that hydrogels are compatible with our water-based natural environment, they possess several – often seemingly paradoxical – properties: As “nanosponges” they are physically delimited and dimensionally stable, but they are able to absorb small molecules. As a rule, they are chemically inert, but are capable of adapting to changes in their environment by changing their size and shape. Small hydrogel particles, the microgels, are surface-active but without being amphiphilic, a typical characteristic of surfactants. It is such microgels that the thirty researchers in the Research Center, coordinated by Professor Walter Richtering of the Institute of Physical Chemistry, are investigating.

More than 30 scientists, led by the Center’s coordinator, Professor Walter Richtering from RWTH’s Institute of Physical Chemistry, are to conduct research on these microgels.

The aim of the SFB is to achieve a quantitative understanding and design of microgels. The microgel functionalities are to meet new requirements in manufacturing and application processes. The SFB seeks to develop generic methods for a rational product process design that quantifies the desired characteristics of an application process and facilitates the design of new interactive material properties.

The new SFB receives funding in the amount of 10.5 million Euros. Thus the Research Center will be able to hire 33 additional doctoral candidates and five postdocs.