Massimo Morbidelli

ETH, Zurich, Switzerland 

"Form Polymer Colloids to structural materials"


Emulsion polymerization is widely used at the industrial scale to produce aqueous dispersions of polymer colloids, with highly controlled size and polydispersity, in a variety of different chemical compositions and morphologies. Such nanoparticles are typically coagulated in appropriate devices to produce the desired polymeric materials in the form of dry powders.

Recent results in the theory of colloidal systems indicated the possibility to exploit the aggregation and breakage events occurring in these devices to produce supranano-structures, which cannot be achieved otherwise. Appropriate chemical reactions are then conducted to provide suitable functionalities as well as mechanical properties.

For example, one can mix dispersions of colloids of different composition and realize composites where the different phases retain the same size and morphology of the original colloidal particles. By controlling the gelation process, one can create percolating phases inside such composites, which allow transferring physicochemical properties from the nano to the macro scale. The case of bigels, where two independently percolating phases are created is also discussed.

Examples of different structured materials of interest for various applications are discussed. These include the production of controlled porous materials in the form of powders or monoliths, which can be used as adsorbents for large (bio) molecules or as thermal insulators. Other areas of interest include drug delivery and enhanced oil recovery.

Faculty Host: Dr. Arvind Rajendran


Massimo Morbidelli received his Laurea in Chemical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano in 1977, and his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame in 1986. After his first appointments as professor at the University of Cagliari (Italy) and then at the Politecnico di Milano, he is, since 1997, Professor of Chemical Reaction Engineering at the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering at ETH Zurich (Switzerland).

His main research interests are in chemical reaction engineering, with particular emphasis on polymer reactions and colloidal engineering. This has evolved over the years in developing new processes for the production of polymer particles, ranging from the micro to the nano scale, exhibiting various types of functionalities and physico-chemical characteristics, including bio compatibility and degradation kinetics. Applications in various areas are considered including drug delivery, composite materials and treatment of oil reservoirs.

Massimo Morbidelli is co-author of more than 600 papers, 11 international patents and four books. He serves as an associate editor of the ACS journal of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, and is a member of the scientific board of several international scientific journals. He is the recipient of the 2005 R.H. Wilhelm Award in Chemical Reaction Engineering of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and of the 2014 Gerhard Damköhler-Medaille of DECHEMA.and VDI-GVC.

Massimo Morbidelli is a cofounder of ChromaCon Ltd., a spin-off company from his research group. Since 2007, ChromaCon Ltd. brings new chromatographic processes (MCSGP-technology) for the purification of proteins and peptides to the market. 

Massimo Morbidelli

Form Polymer Colloids to structural materials.

Date: May 8, 2017

Time: 3:30 - 4:30 pm

Location: ETLC 1-001