Situated in Belgium, in the heart of Western Europe, KU Leuven has been a centre of learning for nearly six centuries (http://www.kuleuven.be). Today, it is Belgium's largest university and, founded in 1425, one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe. As a leading European research university and co-founder of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), KU Leuven offers a wide variety of international master’s programmes, all supported by high-quality, innovative, interdisciplinary research. Academic education is provided to more than 40000 students.The academic staff counts more than 1000 professors and over 5500 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers.

KU Leuven is a research-intensive, internationally oriented university that carries out both fundamental and applied research.It is strongly inter- and multidisciplinary in focus and strives for international excellence. To this end, KU Leuven works together actively with its research partners at home and abroad.

Polymer Chemistry and Materials

  • biobased polymeric materials, materials based on conjugated polymers, nano-engineered polymer materials;
  • new pathways for polymer synthesis;
  • unveiling structure-property relationships in soft matter using experiment, theory and simulations

At the Polymer Chemistry and Materials Division of the KU Leuven Chemistry Department, elements of contemporary organic and physical chemistry are exploited and developed in a concerted way to create new polymeric materials. Molecules and materials are synthesized and characterized on molecular and supramolecular levels. The properties are evaluated and interpreted in terms of intrinsic molecular characteristics and the materials processing induced morphology. Strong collaborations with other research groups exist to adequately cover the chain of knowledge required to develop new polymeric materials.


  • E. Nies
  • M. Smet

Polymer Chemistry and Materials in detail

Biobased Polymeric Materials

Research on biobased polymer materials relies on the synthesis of polymers from renewable resources as well as on the direct use of natural polymers. Targeted materials include wheat gluten based thermoplastic elastomers, rigid materials and natural fibre reinforced composites, semicrystalline polymers with improved melt strength and mechanical performance. Other research lines focus on the functionality of natural polymers in food context or the fabrication of carbon fibres from renewable resources.

Conjugated Polymers

The activity on tailor-made conjugated polymers predominantly targets polythiophenes and their derivatives. Focus is on their synthesis and supramolecular organization as well as on their chiroptical, magnetic-optical, magnetic and nonlinear optical properties. Other (conjugated) polymers find applications as microporous membranes for gas separation.

Nano-Engineered Polymer Materials

The nanostructure of polymeric materials determines their properties.Tailoring the nanostructure to specific mechanical, optical or thermal needs is established by tuning the molecular structure and material composition, exploiting the principles of self-assembly and phase transitions. Temperature or pressure excursions and exposures to external shear or magnetic fields all contribute to establishing the nanostructures of choice. Nano-engineering often involves blending with nanoparticles, blockcopolymers or surfactants. Topics of interest include nanostructured polymer matrices for fibre reinforced composites and materials for 3D printing.

Structure-property relations in soft matter

Progress in the design and the understanding of complex polymeric systems can most efficiently be made when experiment, simulation and theory are properly balanced. Morphology-sensitive techniques include different types of microscopy, Circular Dichroism Spectroscopy, (time- resolved synchrotron) X-ray, neutron and light scattering.Experimental results are interpreted in terms of theoretical concepts.When needed (molecular) simulation approaches are added to further enlighten the case at hand.

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