Biopolymers for innovative materials

Building blocks from nature that have already been perfected through evolution are ideally suited for developing new materials and surfaces with different functionalities. These can be antimicrobial, biocompatible or biodegradable, for example, depending on the requirements. As an institute focusing on adhesion and surface technology, our goal is to generate properties that are required for specific applications with respect to adhesion. In doing so, we work primarily with classical building blocks from nature such as sugars, fats and proteins and biobased polymers derived from them. 


Functional surfaces

Surfaces play a central role in nature as well as in many technical applications. The example of analytics or implants illustrates this: The binding of a molecule to the surface (e.g. laccase) results in surface properties that pave the way for trace analytics or increase biocompatibility. We develop surfaces for different applications and test them with modern, but also standardized methods such as a quartz crystal microbalance or in cell culture. We use surface modification or structuring to impart specific properties to the surface that improve cell interactions, for example. Another application is the antifouling effect, which can be achieved by functionalizing the surface with suitable biomolecules. 


Adhesives made from natural materials

Bonding is one of the dominant "joining techniques" in nature and is directly related to the surfaces involved. Natural "adhesives" serve very different purposes and are optimized for individual applications. These include the adhesion of proteins and cells, but also of whole organisms to surfaces. We use these concepts for analytical questions in the field of material development.

In doing so, we focus on the use of renewable raw materials in order to actively shape the change from mineral oil-based to resource-saving raw materials. Our material development includes the goal of maximizing the biogenic content, but also the replacement of environmentally harmful components in adhesives with alternatives, such as for paper bonding.

In addition to the development and testing of bio-based materials, the clarification of elementary questions regarding biocompatibility, cell interactions and degradation profile according to DIN EN ISO 10993 in the context of medical devices plays a central role. We also deal with questions about degradation products, aging and the recyclability of new materials from recyclates or biomaterials. For this purpose we are equipped with modern instruments like GC-MS and MALDI-ToF. 


Cooperation in interdisciplinary research projects

We work on the issues outlined here in interdisciplinary research projects both across departments at Fraunhofer IFAM and with national and international partners. Analytical, microbiological or cell biological tests are carried out to validate the generated materials or surface modifications in accordance with existing standards.


Our main activities in the field of biomimetics/biomaterials are summarized below:

  • Bonding in medicine (histological preparations, dental medicine etc.)
  • Surface modification and analysis for medical technology
  • Adhesives based on renewable raw materials
  • Use of biological concepts for material development (biological transformation)
  • Bioanalytics:
    • Microbiology laboratory for antimicrobial/antiviral testing
    • Cell culture laboratory for biocompatibility testing
    • Real-time/quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis
    • QCM-D measurements (acoustic method for surface characterization)
    • MALDI-ToF MS
    • GC-MS
    • Texture Analyzer
    • Determination of enzyme activities
  • Development of surfaces with antimicrobial properties - e.g. via peptides or release of active ingredients
  • Targeted surface interaction of proteins and cells, e.g. for diagnostics
  • Biocompatible surfaces, e.g. for implants
  • Biofunctionalization of particles


Your contact person on the subject of biomaterials:

Linda Gätjen is a project manager in the department "Adhesives and Polymer Chemistry". The department's research and development work addresses all biological, technical and chemical issues arising from the applications of adhesives, material testing and functionalized surfaces. Due to the steadily increasing demand for resource-saving and controllably degradable materials, biomaterials are a particular focus here.