Self-Shedding Surfaces

What to do when functional surfaces fail? When catheters become contaminated with microorganisms or sensors no longer react? Until now, the answer was: remove and replace. The chemist Dr. Karen Lienkamp has received a 1.49 million euros Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to develop an alternative approach. In the future, medical devices or sensors made from functional polymers may be able to “shed” their surface when they are exhausted, allowing them to regenerate and be reused.



Dr. Karen Lienkamp (Source: Britt Schilling / Frias)

In the next five years, Lienkamp and her team plan to develop a technological platform that will enable a multilayer system to selectively shed the top functional polymer layer. This will remove the defect and expose a new functional layer. An example for the application of this technology is the prevention of bacterial biofilms on medical devices. This can help prevent life-threatening infections.

Karen Lienkamp studied chemistry in Cambridge, U.K. and Berlin. She earned her PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz. After three years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, USA, she returned to Germany in 2010 and joined the Laboratory for Chemistry and Physics of Interfaces, part of the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg. She is preparing her habilitation thesis and heads the junior research group “Bioactive Polymer Synthesis and Surface Engineering”, which is funded by Emmy Noether Program of the German Research Foundation. The group’s research focuses on bioactive polymer layers for biomedical applications.

ERC Grants are among Europe’s most prestigious research grants. The sole criteria for receiving an ERC Grant are the scientific excellence of the researchers and their proposals. In the current round, a total of 3272 proposals for starting grants were submitted in the areas physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, and social sciences and humanities.


Dr. Karen Lienkamp
Laboratory for the Chemistry and Physics of Interfaces
Department of Microsystems Engineering
Phone: +49 (0)761/203-7415

Natascha Thoma-Widmann
PR/Marketing Officer
Faculty of Engineering
Phone: +49 (0)761/203-8056





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