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Barbara Dordi (promotion date: 12 December 2003)

Covalent and Supramolecular Functionalization of Self Assembled Monolayers: Reactivity in Confinement and Molecular Nanofabrication

Promotion date: 12 december 2003

Barbara Dordi

Monolayers are molecules that spontaneously organize themselves on a substrate. The aim of the thesis was to study the reactivity. Molecules react in a different way; depending on whether they are in a solution or on a surface. Reactivity in a solution is for instance much quicker than on a surface, which may take hours and sometimes even days. We used molecules containing sulphur (S), which reacts well to the gold. The sulphur present binds to the substrate, and you are left with a functional group that differs.

What was your thesis about?

Self assembled monolayers on gold. Monolayers are molecules that spontaneously organize themselves on a substrate. The aim of the thesis was to study the reactivity. Molecules react in a different way; depending on whether they are in a solution or on a surface. Reactivity in a solution is for instance much quicker than on a surface, which may take hours and sometimes even days. We used molecules containing sulphur (S), which reacts well to the gold. The sulphur present binds to the substrate, and you are left with a functional group that differs.

What is the purpose of all this?

A thorough knowledge about reactivity is applicable in nanofabrication. In bio applications for instance for the detection of certain proteins or genes. There is a strong interest nowadays in bio sensors for drug delivery, which enable an exact dosage of a specific medicine reacting only to a particular part of (malignant) body tissue. But my investigation is still very fundamental, although I don’t think the realization of a chip in the body dispensing medicine is very far off. I certainly hope to see it in my lifetime.

Your background is chemistry?

I am a chemical engineer. In Italy, were I come from, there is a big difference between chemistry and chemical engineering. Obviously you do chemistry during your studies, but not as much as chemists. In chemical engineering you do quite a bit of physics and mathematics and a lot of technology, like in the chemical technology department here at Twente University. There is a strong practical side to it.

Did you succeed in your investigations to find what you were looking for?

We managed to learn a lot more about the differences in reactivity, and have deposited molecules on a substrate creating very small dimensions. We achieved that.

Are you going to continue in this line of research?

I would love to. So far I have been too busy to take any steps towards securing a position, but I will certainly do my best after my promotion. I would like to stay in this university. This is exactly the right place for this line of research where facilities, opportunities and the exchange of ideas are concerned.

And what would the next step be in your research?

Applications. That is what makes it all so exciting.

What made you come to Twente in the first place?

I was thinking of going abroad after my university training and was thinking of France. I speak French and being able to speak the language makes life a lot easier. But I met up with some friends of mine who did their PHD’s here, and I made some inquiries for myself.

Then my professor had to go on business to Italy, we talked at the airport and a week later he offered me a position.

What about the language, was that a problem?

When I came here, I did not speak any English. I did not wait for the extra language class you can attend as a foreign PHD student, but hired my own teacher.

Not being able to speak English made my first days here very tough, but fortunately I picked it up fairly quickly and everything went smoothly after that. I enjoyed my time here, the research, the interaction with people, the international contacts and the conferences I have been to. I am especially proud of having had the opportunity of an oral presentation in a conference in New York last autumn. It is also a good preparation for my defence on December 12!

For the summary of the thesis, click here. (English)