Low-molecular-weight gels: from the rational design to the application of versatile soft materials

Ravarino, Paolo (2023) Low-molecular-weight gels: from the rational design to the application of versatile soft materials, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Chimica, 35 Ciclo.
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Low-molecular-weight (LMW) gels are a versatile class of soft materials that gained increasing interest over the last few decades. They are made of a small percentage, often lower than 1.0 %, of organic molecules called gelators, dispersed in a liquid medium. Such molecules have a molecular weight usually lower than 1 kDa. The gelator molecules start to interact after the addition of a trigger, and form fibres, whose entanglement traps the solvent through capillary forces. A plethora of LMW gelators have been designed, including short peptides. Such gelators present several advantages: the synthesis is easy and can be easily scaled up; they are usually biocompatible and biodegradable; the gelation phenomenon can be rationalised by making small variation on the peptide scaffold; they find application in several fields. In this thesis, an overview of several peptide based LMW gels is presented. In each study, the gelation conditions were carefully studied, and the final materials were thoroughly investigated. First, the gelation ability of a fluorinated phenylalanine was assessed, to understand how the presence of a rigid moiety and the presence of fluorine may influence the gelation. In this context, a method for the dissolution of sensitive gelators was studied. Then, the control over the gel formation was studied both over time and space, taking advantage of either the pH-annealing of the gel or the reaction-diffusion of a hydrolysing reagent. Some gels were probed for various applications. Due to their ability of trapping water and organic solvents, we used gels for trapping pollutants dissolved in water, as well as a medium for the controlled release of either fragrances or bioactive compounds. Finally, the interaction of the gel matrix with a light-responsive molecule was assessed to understand wether the gel properties or the interaction of the additive with light were affected.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Ravarino, Paolo
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Soft materials, self-assembly, peptides, gels, rheology
Data di discussione
21 Giugno 2023

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