Molecular, Macromolecular Chemistry, and Materials E.S.P.C.I.

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Self-healing vitrimers and rubbers for soft robotics

Introduction : The natural healing function has inspired chemists to impart similar properties to synthetic materials, creating “self-healing materials". A broad range of SH materials has been developed, based on a variety of chemical and physical principles. In robotics and machines in general, SH materials and healing abilities have hardly been explored. This project will realize the scientifically ambitious and technologically concrete breakthroughs to exploit the integration of self-healing materials with (damage) sensing capabilities, intelligence, and automated healing in soft robotics.

Project Background
 : The present PhD position is part of the European project, SHERO, involving 4 renown academic institutions : Vreie Universiteit Brussels, University of Cambridge, ESPCI Paris, EMPA-Switzerland, and 1 SME Suprapolix-Netherlands in 5 different countries thereby gathering extended expertise in chemistry, physics, materials science and automation.

Description of the Research Unit : The Molecular, Macromolecular Chemistry, and Materials (C3M) Laboratory at ESPCI Paris is involved in research combining fundamental and applied aspects. The activity covers chemistry, colloid and polymer physics and materials science. Including 14 staff people (researchers, teachers, technical and administrative), the laboratory hosts PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from different continents and backgrounds. The laboratory maintains numerous collaborations with industrial partners in sectors as diverse as chemicals, oil exploration, automotive, biomedical devices, pharmaceuticals, coatings, cosmetics and water treatment. The recent discovery of self-healing rubbers and the invention of vitrimers, a new class of organic materials that behave like glass, have aroused both scientific and public interest.

Mission : Based on leading experience of the C3M Laboratory in self-healing rubbers and vitrimers, the PhD candidate will develop new elastomeric self-healing materials, compliant with soft robotics requirements. Investigations will involve design, formulation and extrusion of reactive systems, molecular rheology and spectroscopy, (thermo)mechanical testing, microscopy, X-ray scattering techniques. Integration of sensing/actuating functionalities, as well as design, control and optimization of soft robotic systems will be addressed in collaboration with the academic partners. Collaboration with Suprapolix will ensure the relevance of the means implemented in terms of scale up and suitability to industrial needs. Regular stays in partners’ laboratories and facilities will be organized during the course of this project.

PhD Supervisor(s) : Dr. François Tournilhac, Dr Sophie Norvez

Profile : We will look for a candidate holding (or enrolled in) a master’s degree and having a very good training in physico-chemistry or materials science together with a basic knowledge of polymer chemistry. Knowledge in scattering techniques and modelling applied to the formulation and study of materials will be also highly appreciated

Eligibility criteria
 : none.

Duration : 36 months. Start date : July 2019

Application : Send CV, motivation & recommendation letters to :

10 Rue Vauquelin, 75005 Paris