Prof. Esther Amstad


Drops: A tool to introduce micrometer sized structures into hydrogels


Monodisperse emulsion drops are often used as individually dispersed entities, such as closed containers for conducting high throughput screening assays or templates for the fabrication of delivery vehicles. Here, I will demonstrate how monodisperse drops can be collectively used to fabricate macroscopic granular hydrogels with well-defined micrometer-length-scale structures. The introduction of structures on these length scales enables tuning the mechanical properties of these hydrogels without changing their chemical composition. The introduction of micrometer length-scale structures offers an additional benefit: It enables changing their composition over short distances, thereby opening up possibilities to vary their mechanical properties and functionalities on these length scales. Within this talk, I will demonstrate how such granular hydrogels can be fabricated, functionalized, and give examples of potential applications.


Esther Amstad studied material science at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, where she also carried out her PhD thesis under the supervision of Prof. Marcus Textor (2007-2011). As a Postdoctoral fellow, she joined the experimental soft condensed matter group of David A. Weitz at Harvard University, USA (2011-2014). Since June 2014, she is Tenure Track Assistant Professor at the institute of Materials at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, where she heads the Soft Materials Laboratory (SMAL). Inspired by nature, her research team develops drop-based processing routes that offer control over the local composition and structure of materials. They use these tools to study the influence of the structure and local composition of materials on their mechanical properties with the goal to design materials whose mechanical properties are similar or even superior to those of natural counterparts.