Oligonucleic acid-functionalized stimuli-responsive membranes

DNA-aptamers are used as specific, reversible, and target-concentration dependent actuators in membranes and particles whose permeability or controlled release can be modulated through a molecular recognition event rather than a bulk stimulus.

We use nucleic acids as “building blocks” for this purpose. They allow a unique control over systematically assembling nano-structures, are highly versatile, can be very specific and permit a relatively straightforward chemical modification. The modular character of the resulting membranes enables a flexible adaptation to different targets without a tedious de novo development.

Surface-sensitive techniques for developing strategies to mitigate membrane fouling

For two-thirds of the world population suffering from water scarcity in one way or another is imminent. Already nowadays there exist about 20.000 membrane desalination plants world-wide. Membrane fouling is a major problem in water desalination, severely affecting the energy-efficiency of the process and membrane-lifetime.

We explore state-of-the-art sensor techniques to measure membrane fouling starting with the very first molecular layers adsorbed on the membrane surface. We use this knowledge in order to develop strategies that minimize membrane fouling and maximize the efficiency of the membrane cleaning protocols.

Surface-sensitive techniques for developing strategies to mitigate membrane fouling

The structure and function of DNA is traditionally associated with physiological conditions. We have observed that functional DNA can be employed beyond these canonical conditions.

This has opened up entirely new opportunities for making use of the unique structure-function properties of nucleic acids as it abandons the dogma that the function of “bio”molecules is invariably associated with an aqueous environment. In this context, we also aim at abandoning the discrimination between “bio” and “chemical” and rather comprehend the function of macromolecules in a holistic manner.

We gratefully acknowledge funding of our research from: