Controlled cavitation in polymer foams - towards new metamaterials

phd proposal 2021-2024

Sciences et Ingénierie de la Matière Molle (SIMM),
UMR 7615
Adresse : ESPCI – 10 rue Vauquelin – 75231 Paris Cedex 05
Directeur de l’Unité : Etienne Barthel
Etablissement de rattachement : ESPCI/Sorbonne Université/CNRS
Encadrement : Artem Kovalenko
Contact : artem.kovalenko (arobase)

Soft elastomer foams are promising materials for different applications [1], including sensing, soft actuation or acoustic metamaterials. However, a major scientific deadlock for the fabrication of these materials is the control over the pore size: it is still a challenge to reliably make pores below the 1 µm which would enable metamaterials with micro-architectured or gradient porous structures [2]. Indeed, at this "colloidal" lengthscale, the classic foam polymerization methods are poorly controllable and more innovative "template" methods are required. However, we have recently shown [3] that even the template methods suffer from many drawbacks especially related to drying. The nucleation of gas bubbles inside small pores is slow and the soft pores prefer to irreversibly collapse giving a non-porous material.

In this PhD project, we aim to challenge this problem by applying chemical and physical methods to induce the cavitation of gas bubbles in polymer foams upon drying. The PhD student will use emulsion-templated techniques to elaborate model systems with varied pore diameters, porosities and mechanical properties of polymer matrix. He will introduce chemical and physical stimuli to induce cavitation and develop new experimental tools to visualize the reopening of the pores. From a practical point of view, the project aims at proposing protocols which minimize pore collapse without using expensive methods such as supercritical drying. If interested, he will also be given the opportunity to participate in continuum scale modelling of deformation and fluid transport in these porous materials under capillary and adhesive stresses using numerical methods. These studies will support material development and explain the collapse phenomenon which origin is still poorly understood.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with experimental skills in material science, polymers, physical chemistry or mechanics. Good academic records are mandatory. The candidates are evaluated by the jury of the ED397 (the details and the calendar can be found here: Please contact the project supervisors first by sending an application email which should include a CV, a copy of your academic records, a motivation letter and contact information of references.

Starting date: October 2021

1. Zhu et al. J. Mater. Chem. A 2017, 5 (32), 16467–16497.
2. Jin et al.. Nature Communications 2019, 10 (1), 143.
3. Nguyen et al. Soft Matter 2020.

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Practical information

Sciences et Ingénierie de la Matière Molle

Soft Matter Enginering and Science Laboratory - UMR 7615

10 rue Vauquelin
75231 PARIS CEDEX 05

  • Chair : E. Barthel
  • Vice Chairs : J.B. d’Espinose & G. Ducouret
  • Administration : F. Decuq, M.-T. Mendy & M. Hirano-Courcot
  • Communication : A. Hakopian & M. Ciccotti
  • Information Technology : A. Hakopian
  • Safety, Health and Environment Assistant : F. Martin

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