DWI's activities focus on five research programmes, each of which addresses key questions for the development of new active and interactive material properties. We work in these areas across groups and bundle the competencies of our scientific leaders in order to exploit interdisciplinary synergies.
Water is, in the literal meaning of the word, naturally the medium of life. It bears exceptional properties as a universal and abundant solvent and by this renders life possible in the first place. Understanding, recreating, and exploiting the interaction of water and matter to perform complex processes is thus one of the grand scientific challenges. But how do complex materials with tailor-made functions arise from an aqueous solution? How can one influence the properties of materials that mostly consist of water? Technologies based on water play an important role at the DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials. On the one hand, water, due to its special characteristics, orchestrates the so called self-assembly of (macro-)molecules for constructing materials. On the other hand, other media are often unacceptable or only acceptable to a limited degree due to sustainability issues. Even though water is undesired in many established chemical syntheses, it is still vital for biochemical reactions and biological processes especially because of its importance as a solvent. Biological and biochemical compatibility is essential for DWI research. Regarding water-based technologies, DWI scientists use manifold ‘building blocks’ that comprise diverse monomers, polymer precursors, functional nanoparticles, proteins, or microgels. Microgels are highly elastic polymer networks that are like a tiny sponge fully soaked with water. By conceiving synthetic methodology in aqueous solution, the DWI scientists are developing functional materials and complex material systems.