ORC-31806 Bio-organic Chemistry at Surfaces: Tuning the Outermost Nanometer


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. LCPM de Smet
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. JT Zuilhof
dr. ir. LCPM de Smet
Examiner(s)dr. ir. LCPM de Smet

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety

Assumed knowledge on:

ORC-20306 Bio-organic Chemistry


The majority of biological interactions with the external world takes place at a surface. Similarly, in the sensing of (bio)molecules and ions, e.g., in the field of medical diagnostics, sensor-analyte interactions can be controlled by surface chemistry, while in, e.g., solar energy conversion the overall yield is often determined by the definition of the surface. Also, in separation processes using membranes, surface properties play an important role in the overall selectivity and permeability performances.
These examples indicate that the chemical and physical properties of surfaces are vitally important. In upcoming technologies like nanotechnology, the properties of surfaces are becoming more important, due to the increasingly high surface area-to-volume ratio.
This course deals with the (bio-organic) chemistry of surfaces: the attachment and deposition of molecules onto a surface, showing that the surface modification was successful, and doing something highly useful with it. Topics that will be treated in this course are: 
- polymer synthesis (with a focus on controlled radical polymerization) and polymer characterization; 
- (bio)functionalization via coupling reactions with a focus on click chemistry; 
- chemical modification of surfaces and surfaces in action; 
- analytical methods for the characterization of surfaces through techniques, including contact angle measurements, AFM, STM, and XPS; 
- preparation and characterization of inorganic nanoparticles, with an eye to their (medical) applications and toxicity studies; 
- polyelectrolyte layers on surfaces and their applications; 
- nanoporous materials and membranes.
In the practical course illustrative experiments will be performed related to polymer synthesis and chemically modified surfaces. The products will be investigated with different advanced techniques and instruments.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- define and recognize key concepts from the course related to (bio-)organic surface chemistry;
- describe reaction mechanisms covered in the course (on polymer synthesis, click reactions, surface modification reactions, membrane chemistry, and the synthesis of nanoparticles and nanoporous materials), and to and recognize and apply these reactions in the design of new structures and surfaces;
- propose preparation methods of various surface-related structures (see above) and describe how the structure properties lead to specific (bio-) applications;
- explain the working principle of presented characterization methods; analyze and evaluate results of these methods, and design characterization experiments;
- understand how organic reactions occur at a surface or interface and how these reactions operate differently at a surface compared to in bulk solution;
- perform experiments (safely, efficiently and ) related to polymer synthesis and surface chemistry, as well as investigate the formed structures using various experimental techniques;
- prepare a practical report in which experimental results and appropriate theory are combined.


- attend lectures;- study the course material (reader and sheets);
- make exercises;
- critically evaluate a topical research paper and present your assessment;
- perform illustrative experiments and write a critical report in which the relation between theory and practice is adequately described.


The final mark is determined by the exam (67%) and the performance during the practical course and the quality of the report (33%). The minimum mark for each part is 5.00. To pass this course, a total score of ≥ 5.50 is needed. The marks for the individual parts of the course will remain valid for 3 years.


A study guide and the study material will be made available in the form of a reader (available at the WUR-shop) and sheets (available in Brightspace).

Restricted Optional for: MMLMolecular Life SciencesMScB: Spec. B Biological Chemistry4WD
MMLMolecular Life SciencesMScA: Spec. A Biomedical Research4WD
MMLMolecular Life SciencesMScD: Spec. D Physical Chemistry4WD