University of Glasgow | LIBBY MARSHALL, PHD-STUDENT

Research in the Adams group focuses on small molecules, commonly referred to as low molecular weight gelators, that self-assemble in water to form a 3D network capable of trapping large volumes of water, resulting in formation of a gel. Gels are soft, viscoelastic materials that are of interest in a wide variety of applications including drug encapsulation and delivery, environmental remediation, and optoelectronics. Our group focuses on the initial understanding of these systems with the hope that the knowledge gained from our research will be used in the future to design supramolecular gels with specific applications in mind.

Throughout my PhD, I have studied supramolecular systems composed of multiple components in order to access a wide range of properties in the final gel state. Here the ratio of components plays a key role in the final properties of the gel, allowing properties to be precisely tuned to meet specific needs. It is therefore of great importance that we can accurately prepare the pre-gel systems with known concentrations. These systems are also highly sensitive to the processes by which they are prepared, making consistent preparation and mixing of components essential to obtain reproducible and reliable results.

My most recent project looked at a specific type of gel called supramolecular noodles. As the name suggests, these are long, thin gels that resemble noodles. Supramolecular noodles are formed by extruding a pre-gel solution into a trigger medium. The trigger medium causes the gelator molecules in the pre-gel solution to instantly transition from the solution state to the gel state. Supramolecular noodles have applications in cell culture, optoelectronics, and regenerative medicine.

A previous PhD student completed in-depth studies showing the effect of needle diameter on the properties of noodles formed. By using a wide range of needles, we can fabricate noodles with different morphologies and properties from a single gelator. that causes gel formation. Micro syringes will be used for gel fabrication, where known amounts of various solutions must be combined. The series 700 and 7000 Hamilton syringes will be ideal for preparing our samples for characterisation by a huge variety of techniques such as rheology, nanoindentation, small-angle scattering techniques, NMR, circular dichroism and UV-vis spectroscopy. Highly precise syringes will also be of great value during synthesis of our gelator molecules.

In addition to my own research, I also train a number of undergraduate students (BSc and MSci) yearly and introduce them to a research environment. Instilling the highest laboratory standards into potential PhD students and future researchers requires precision equipment to ensure that procedures can be repeated accurately and consistently. Precision syringes will ensure training in gel preparation, where the ratio of gelling components is vital, can be correctly explored and reported.

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