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Institut Charles Sadron : Scientific report 2007-2011

Abstract : The beginning of the reporting period (2007-2011) was marked by an important milestone: the move and the installation of the Institut Charles Sadron (ICS) in its new building, on the Cronenbourg campus, next to other laboratories of the Pôle Matériaux et Nanosciences Alsace. With this move a new era has started, featuring better and safer working conditions, novel scientific equipments and platforms as well as a new scientific life including an increasing number of PhD students, post-docs and visitors and further developments of internal collaborations. Many of the actions taken after the move to Cronenbourg were stimulated by a critical analysis of the last AERES report (2008). Following the recommendations of the evaluation panel, a new scientific project was elaborated, taking a real advantage of the multidisciplinary character of the institute. The main objective of the resulting midterm scientific program was to reinforce the identity of the ICS as an institute for “Chemistry and Physics of Polymers and Self-Assembled Systems”. The document, presenting the detailed objectives of the program and the necessary resources to complete it, was discussed with an external Scientific Advisory Board at the beginning of 2009 (Jean-Louis Barrat, Lyon; Philippe Barrois, Bordeaux; Jacques Penelle, Thiais; François Tournilhac, Paris). Toward the end of2011, we may say that most of the objectives of the program have been reached, as will be presented in the following. One of our important concerns was the dramatic decline of the research in polymer chemistry, due to many leaves for retirement. Concerted actions associating the CNRS and the University of Strasbourg have permitted the creation of two new chemistry groups headed by young group leaders : Nicolas Giuseppone (PR at the UdS) leading the SAMS (Synthèse et Auto-assemblage Moléculaire et Supramoléculaire) group which explores routes to new classes of supramolecular materials; and Jean-François Lutz (DR at the CNRS) leading the PMC (Precision Macromolecular Chemistry) group which develops novel approaches of polymer synthesis. Both have applied successfully to ERC starting grants which provide their young groups with an important support in terms of equipment and funding for PhD students and post-docs. More recently they have also been involved in the LabEx project “Chemistry of Complex Systems” coordinated by Jean Marie Lehn, which has been positively evaluated and will be funded by the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche). On a more technical side, our Platform of Polymer Characterization, which plays an essential role for inhouse macromolecular chemistry as well as for external users (from university and industry), was facing a serious threat, with the leave of three engineers and the need for renewing equipments. Thanks to the Institute of Chemistry (INC-CNRS), the platform is now operated by a new team of efficient young staff, and several novel instruments could be funded by the CPER (Contrat de Projet Etat-Région). A central objective of our mid-term research program was to take better advantage of the rather unique combination of competences in chemistry, physical chemistry, materials science and soft matter physics, present at the Institute. The program identified important scientific challenges and suggested to organize the research along 3 thematic axes selected for their emergent impact, either in terms of applications or with regardto fundamental questions. These axes concern Polyelectrolytes, Polymers and interfaces and Self-assembled systems. The first two axes are built on research topics that have a long tradition at the ICS. The third axis, on the other hand, highlights a more recent research interest shared by many groups of the ICS. Scientifically the contents of the axes can be circumscribed as follows: • Polyelectrolytes Polyelectrolytes are natural or synthetic, water soluble, charged polymers which are widely used in the fields of pharmacy, biology, food processing, water treatment or oil extraction. In most of these applications, the polyelectrolytes are in presence of various components of opposite charge and/or of the same charge. Clearly, the complexity present in these mixtures requires theoretical and experimental studies of model systems, both concerning polyelectrolyte complexes in suspension or multilayers of alternating polyanions and polycations. • Polymers and interfaces In a number of situations dealing with surface chemistry or surface physics, there are polymer chains adsorbed, grafted or just confined in a very thin layer. Conformation and dynamics of a macromolecule in the vicinity of a surface can differ from those of the bulk. The impact of the surface on the physical-chemical behavior and structure formation still presents many important challenges for fundamental understanding. Theoretical studies and numerical simulations in complement with experimental investigations of surface structure and properties are therefore highly desirable. • Self-assembled systems Self-assembled systems result from the spontaneous organization which occurs between some well defined molecules thanks to their complementary through weak supramolecular interactions. Self-assembly is programmed by the information contained in the initial molecular or macromolecular individual components which reversibly aggregate in structures of higher dimension and complexity. The main biologic functions of living systems mostly rely on basic principles of supramolecular chemistry and despite their high complexity those are important sources of inspiration for developing new synthetic self-assemblies. Moreover, in nanosciences, the so called « bottom-up » approach is fully related to the control and to the programming of molecular interactions to yield larger objects with new or improved functions, through hierarchical self-assembly. Such approaches require converging efforts in organic synthesis, physical chemistry, theory and simulations, aiming at a better understanding of the thermodynamics and formation kinetics of functional materials based on self assembly and self organization. (...)
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-- Institut Charles Sadron. Institut Charles Sadron : Scientific report 2007-2011. 2011. ⟨hal-02380656⟩

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