Young scientist honored
The Anton Paar Award for Chemistry funded by the Santner Foundation is one of the two most important Austrian awards for young scientists in the field of chemistry; the other one being the habilitation prize of the Austrian chemical society GÖCH. This year’s award goes to Dr. Miriam Unterlass, head of a research group at the Institute of Materials Chemistry at the Vienna University of Technology, where she and her team are researching non-classical polymer synthesis. The prize was awarded for the publication „Geomimetics for Green Polymer Synthesis: Highly Ordered Polyimides via Hydrothermal Techniques“ by B. Baumgartner, M. J. Bojdys and M. M. Unterlass, released in the trade magazine Polymer Chemistry.
High crystallinity of organic polymers is very desirable for direction-dependent materials properties such as in conducting polymers or for polymers of high mechanical stability. Most high-performance organic polymers are however typically fully aromatic and thus often insoluble and non-melting. Increasing their crystallinity by recrystallization or from the melt is thus simply impossible. Intrigued by the parallels in formation of inorganic gemstones, especially silicates, and organic condensation polymers (i.e. they both form via condensation reactions with the liberation of water as a side product), Unterlass & co-workers applied the reaction conditions of the formation of highly crystalline ores to organic polymers. The authors were able to show that applying hydrothermal conditions, one can indeed obtain fully aromatic condensation polymers, of high molecular weight and outstanding crystallinity (B. Baumgartner, M.J. Bojdys and M. M. Unterlass, "Geomimetics for Green Polymer Synthesis: Highly Ordered Polyimides via Hydrothermal Techniques" (Front Cover Page), Polymer Chemistry 2014, 5, 3771.). The reaction conditions in hydrothermal polymerization are 200 ˚C and 17 bar, and fully condensed highly crystalline polyimides can be obtained after solely one hour. In addition, hydrothermal polymerization doesn’t require the use of toxic high-boiling solvents and catalysts.
Link to the original publication.
Dr. Miriam Unterlass:
Miriam Unterlass studied Chemistry, Process Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Würzburg (Germany), the University of Southampton (UK) and the Ecole Superieure of the Chimie Physique Electronique Lyon (France). Unterlass obtained her PhD in Colloid- and Polymer Science from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam-Golm (Germany) in 2011. After a post-doc stay at the Ecole Superieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in Paris (France), she moved to TU Vienna. There she heads a junior research group since December 2012, working towards her habilitation.