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Matías Bikel (promotion date: 18 December 2009)

Title: Fundamental aspects of phase separation microfabrication

Promotion date: 18. December 2009

Promotor: Prof. Dr. Ir. Matthias Wessling
Assistant Promotor: Dr. ir. Rob Lammertink

Fundamental aspects of Phase Seperation MicroFabrication (PSµF) were studied. PSµF is a technique with which polymeric films are structured. This is done through induction of phase separation of polymer solutions, while they are in contact with micropatterned molds.

Diverse topics were covered, including the study of shrinkage during phase separation and its effect on feature replication, gas entrapment during casting of polymer solutions on molds, release of films perforated by pillars on molds (microsieves) and the development of permeable molds to yield membranes with structures on both sides.

What was the most important result of your thesis project?
Chapter six contains the most remarkable result, I suppose. Using flexible and permeable molds, we produced membranes with structures on both sides. This is a nice extension of the phase separation microfabrication technique, with which only one side of a membrane can be structured.

Can you mention some advantages?
Patterns help decrease polarization and fouling problems, which take place in mainly all kinds of membranes. Also, the active area is increased in this way.

The findings were published in the American Chemical Society Journal of Applied Materials and Interfaces. We didn´t need to patent the technique. Main features were already patented by the Membrane Technology Group, so a great deal was covered already.

It sounds like a new approach ...
Yes, one can say it involves an entire innovation. The experiments were successful from the start. We saw the idea functioning well, already at the first time. This strengthened our vision that this process represents both an innovation as well as an approach towards continuous production of structured membranes. Furthermore, understanding fundamental aspects better helps in facilitating the successful use of PSµF in future applications.

Do you consider the thesis project as a part of Mesa+?
My research is part of Mesa+, of course. Our group is also involved in other institutes like Impact and BMTI. So it was very multidisciplinary.

What are your future plans?
Currently, I am working at TNO in Apeldoorn, as part of the water treatment division. The TNO institute is closer to the industry than academic research is. It is nice to stay linked to research with a bigger focus on applications.