Molecular Materials News



Dissertation by M.Sc Jason McKee

M.Sc Jason McKee will defend the doctoral thesis entitled “Biomimetics – Architectural Considerations for Functional Nanocomposites” on January 30, 2015 at 12.00  in lecture hall E, Otakaari 1, Espoo. The dissertation deals with the synthetic nanomaterials that combine nanocellulose as reinforcing units with moleculary engineered synthetic polymeric components, inspired by mechanically excellent natural low weight nanocomposites, such as silk, animal bone and plant fibres. The main focuses in this thesis will be the structural design of the constituting components and how they relate to the mechanical properties of the overall composites.

Opponent: Professor Lars Berglund, KTH, Sweden

Custos: Academy Professor Olli Ikkala, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Applied Physics

More information:

Electronic dissertation:

School of Science, electronic dissertations:


Dissertation by M.Sc. Henna Rosilo on 16.01.2014

M.Sc. Henna Rosilo will defend the doctoral dissertation “Investigations of Bio-Organic Hybrid Assemblies” on 16 January 2015 at 12 noon in auditorium TU1, Otaniementie 17, Espoo. The thesis presents the controlled self-assembly of synthetic organic materials with bio-nanomaterials and their potential applications in the filed of gene therapy and the development of sustainable composites.

Opponent: Professori Mark MacLachlan, University of British Columbia, Canada

Custos: Professor Olli Ikkala, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Applied Physics

More information:

Electronic dissertation:

School of Science, electronic dissertations:


How slippery are water-repellent surfaces?

Researchers from Molecular Materials and Soft Matter and Wetting group have measured the low but non-zero friction of droplets moving on slippery water-repellent surfaces.

In a recent article published in Nature Communications by Timonen et al.,  a water droplet containing magnetic nanoparticles was placed on a water-repellent superhydrophobic surface and observed its oscillation in a magnetic field. The oscillation amplitude of the droplet decreases, as caused by the friction between droplet and surface. By modelling of the droplet motion, it was possible to extract information on the friction and kinetic energy dissipation.

Link to video:

See the original article: Timonen J.V.I., Latikka M., Ikkala O., Ras R.H.A., Free-Decay and Resonant Methods for Investigating the Fundamental Limit of Superhydrophobicity, Nature Communications 4, 2398 (2013).



Dissertation by M.Sc. Marjo Kettunen on 14.08.2013

M.Sc. Marjo Kettunen will defend the dissertation ” Cellulose Nanofibrils as a Functional Material  on 14 August 2013 at 12:00 in Lecture hall E, Otakaari 1, 02150, Espoo. The thesis presents the rheological characteristics of cellulose nanofibrils and their ability to form aerogels. The nanocellulose aerogels are then used as a template for conducting polymer, titanium dioxide and fluorosilane to develop functional and responsive materials.

Opponent: Professor Akira Isogai, University of Tokyo, Japan

Electronic dissertation:


Dissertation of M.Sc. (Tech.) Juuso Korhonen on 09.08.2013

M.Sc. (Tech.) Juuso Korhonen will defend the dissertation “Studies on Wettability: From Fundamental Concepts and Nanofibrous Materials to Applications”. The dissertation will be held on 9 August 2013 in lecture hall AS1, Otaniementie 17, Espoo. The thesis  presents a method to characterize the wettability of a surface, describes nanomaterials based nanocellulose and silicone nanofilaments, and implements these materials into applications.

Opponent: Professor Gareth McKinley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Electronic dissertation:


Dancing Magnetic Droplets

Self-assembly is ubiquitous in nature and both functionally and structurally complex structures can be achieved by using equilirbium and non-equilibrium self-assembling process. Timonen et al. have now demonstrated how different states equilibrium and dynamic self-assembly can be trapped and distinguished using ferrofluid droplet on a super-hydrophobic surface.

See original article :Timonen J.V.I., Latikka M., Leibler L., Ras R.H.A., Ikkala O., Switchable Static and Dynamic Self-Assembly of Magnetic Droplets on Superhydrophobic Surfaces, Science 341, 253-257 (2013).


New Centre of Excellence in Research

The Board of the Academy of Finland has designated a new centre of excellence in Research for the 2014‒2019 CoE programme.  Academy Professor Olli Ikkala  will be the director of the new “Centre of Excellence in Molecular Engineering of Biosynthetic Hybrid Materials Research”.  This  joint venture with the research groups of Professor Markus Linder, Professor Janne Laine and Professor Merja Penttilä involves strong international and national multidisciplinary collaboration.

For more information: Please look at Academy of Finland designated 14 new Centres of Excellence in Research


Dissertation of M.Sc. (Tech.) Antti Nykänen on 31.05.2013

M.Sc. (Tech.) Antti Nykänen will defend his thesis “Thermally sensitive block copolymer hydrogels in bulk and with decreased dimensions” on 31 May 2013. The dissertation will be held in lecture hall AS1, Otaniementie 17, Espoo. The thesis deals with the thermally sensitive macroscopic polymer gels as well as submicron sized thin film, fibres and spherical particles were studied. Their structure and behavior in water was observed by cryo-electron microscopy.

Opponent: Prof. Sergiy Minko, Clarkson University, USA

Electronic dissertation:


Dissertation of M.Sc. (Tech.) Antti Soininen on 24.05.2013

M.Sc. (Tech.) Antti Soininen will defend his thesis “Nano- and mesoscale structure control in block copolymers and dendritic supramolecules” at 12:00 noon on 24 May 2013. The dissertation will be held in lecture hall E, Otakaari 1. In the thesis, polymers and other organic compounds which spontaneously self-assemble into structures in the length scale of 1-1000 nm are studied. The results of the thesis can be utilized in, for example, the design of new nanomaterials.

Opponent: Prof. Ting Xu, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Link to electronic dissertation:


Dissertation of Jaana Vapaavuori on 17.05.2013

M.Sc. (Tech.) Jaana Vapaavuori will defend the dissertation “Design of efficient photoresponsive materials through supramolecular functionalization” on 17 May 2013 in lecture hall TU1, Otaniementie 17, Espoo. The dissertation presents simple rules by which the response of the photoresponsive azobenzene-based polymers can be controlled. These materials may find future use for example in light-controllable robotics and in machines that convert the energy of light directly to the mechanical energy.

More information:


Dissertation of Jaakko Timonen on 26.03.2013

 M.Sc. (Tech.) Jaakko Timonen will defend the dissertation Magnetic Nanoparticles: From Synthesis Concepts to Biomimetics, Dynamic Self-Assemblies and Collective Phenomena on 26 March at 12:00 noon. The thesis describes synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles and their utilization in a diverse group of modern materials science and technology applications. The dissertation will take place in auditorium E, Otakaari 1, Espoo at the Aalto University School of Science.

Opponent: Professor David Quéré, ESPCI ParisTech & École Polytechnique, France


Biohybrid Superlattices using Virus Particles and Synthetic Nanoparticles

Functional nanomaterials with tuneable optical, magnetic, electronic and catalytic properties have gained a considerable attention in recent years.  While a number of approaches have already been reported, biomimetics-the use of natural methods and structures as a guide and adapting them for  the construction of functional hybrid materials  is evolving rapidly.  In this context,  Mauri Kostiainen  and coworkers, from Molecular Materials group have succeeded in preparing the biohybrid materials utilizing virus particles/protein cages and synthetic nanoparticles.  This research demonstrates that virus or ferritin protein cages can be used to guide the assembly of RNA molecules or iron oxide nanoparticles into three-dimensional binary superlattices.  Such a hybrid material involves unique combination of versatility of nanoparticles and controlled assembly properties of biological particles.  The work has recently been published in leading international journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Original article: Mauri A. Kostiainen, Panu Hiekkataipale, Ari Laiho, Vincent Lemieux,     Jani Seitsonen, Janne Ruokolainen & Pierpaolo Ceci., Electrostatic assembly of binary nanoparticle superlattices using protein cages. Nature Nanotechnology, 2012,


Dissertation of Hua Jin 20.11.2012

M.Sc (Tech) Hua Jin will defend the dissertation “Bio-Inspired Functional Materials” on 20.11. 2012. The thesis shows strategies how to learn from Mother Nature to make functional materials for self-cleaning, continuous self-propulsion and toughness.

The dissertation will take place in lecture hall D of Main Building of School of Science, Otakaari 1 (Espoo, Finland) at 12 o’clock. The opponent will be Prof. Ingo Burgert, from ETH, Zurich, Switzerland


Superhydrophobic Droplet Logic: Computing with Water Droplets

A recent article published by Mertaniemi et al. of Molecular Materials Research Groups in Advanced Materials has gained national and international media attention, as it shows a new concept for computing, using water droplets as bits of digital information (see the videos below).

More Details: Aalto University News

Original article: Mertaniemi H., Forchheimer R., Ikkala O., Ras R.H.A., Rebounding droplet-droplet collisions on superhydrophobic surfaces: from the phenomenon to droplet logic, Advanced Materials, ASAP (2012).


Polyelectrolyte Brushes Grafted from Cellulose Nanocrystals in Most Read Article

An article by Johanna Majoinen from the Molecular Materials group was listed in the ten most read articles of the year 2011 in Biomacromolecules.

Majoinen J., Walther A., McKee J. R., Kontturi E., Aseyev V., Malho J. M., Ruokolainen J., Ikkala O. “Polyelectrolyte Brushes Grafted from Cellulose Nanocrystals Using Cu-Mediated Surface-Initiated Controlled Radical Polymerization” Biomacromolecules 12, 2997-3006 (2011).



Dissertation of Susanna Junnila 26.10.2012

Lic.Tech. Susanna Junnila will defend her thesis “Self-Assembled Polymer Nanostructures Controlled by Molecular Architecture and Polypeptide Conformation” on 26th of October, 2012.

The dissertation will take place in Auditorium AS1 (Otaniementie 17, Espoo) at 12 o’clock. The opponent will be Prof. Sébastien Lecommandoux from University of Bordeaux, France.


Modification of cellulose materials in most read articles

An article coauthored by Olli Ikkala, Sami Nummelin and Henna Rosilo from the Molecular Materials group was listed in the ten most read articles in Biomacromolecules for the first quartal of the year 2012.

Filpponen I., Kontturi E., Nummelin S., Rosilo H., Kolehmainen E., Ikkala O., Laine J., Generic Method for Modular Surface Modification of Cellulosic Materials in Aqueous Medium by Sequential “Click” Reaction and Adsorption, Biomacromolecules 13, pp. 736-742 (2012).


Titanium dioxide nanotubes from nanocellulose aerogels is gaining attention

An article by Juuso Korhonen et al. has gained attention and was listed in the ten most read articles in ACS Nano for the first quartal of the year 2012.

Korhonen J. T., Hiekkataipale P., Malm J., Karppinen M., Ikkala O., Ras R. H. A., Inorganic Hollow Nanotube Aerogels by Atomic Layer Deposition onto Native Nanocellulose Templates, ACS Nano 5, pp. 1967-1974 (2011).


Surfactant driven propulsion

Chemistry World featured an article[1] on surfactant driven propulsion based on a recent publication by Jin et al.[2].

“A small autonomous boat powered by a volatile surfactant has been developed by scientists in Finland and Israel. The surfactant modifies the surface tension of the liquid it floats on to create a surface tension gradient that propels the boat forward.”

[1] Chemistry World article

[2] Jin H., Marmur A., Ikkala O., Ras R.H.A., Vapour-Driven Marangoni Propulsion: Continuous, Prolonged and Tunable Motion, Chemical Science (2012).


Molecular Materials researchers develop optical displays from water and air

Update 21.6.2012. The YouTube video has now reached more than 30 000 views and the news item is gaining lot’s of interest.

(from Aalto web page)
For many years, scientists have been pursuing ways to mimic the perplexing capability of the lotus leaf to repel water. Lotus leaves hate water so much that droplets effortlessly roll off the surface, keeping it clean from dirt. Now an international team of researchers led by Aalto University have come up with an entirely new concept of writing and displaying information on surfaces using simply water.

They exploit the unique way a trapped layer of air behaves on a lotus-inspired dual-structured water-repelling surface immersed under water.

To achieve the extreme water-repellency of the lotus leaf, a surface needs to be superhydrophobic: it must have microscopic surface structures that prevent water from wetting the surface completely, leaving a thin layer of air between water and the surface. When such a surface is immersed in water, a trapped air layer covers the entire surface.

The researchers lead by Dr. Robin Ras at Aalto University in Finland, University of Cambridge and Nokia Research Center Cambridge fabricated a surface with structures in two size scales: microposts that have a size of ten micrometers and tiny nanofilaments that are grown on the posts.

On such a two-level surface the air layer can exist in two different shapes (wetting states) that correspond to the two size scales. The researchers found that one can easily switch between the two states locally using a nozzle to create over- or underpressure in the water, in order to change the air layer to either state.

“The minimal energy needed to switch between the states means the system is bistable, which is the essential property of memory devices, for example”, Academy Research Fellow Dr. Robin Ras points out. However, there is a feature that makes it all the more interesting: there is a striking optical contrast between the states due to a change in the roughness of the water-air interface. “Combined with the optical effect, the surface is also a bistable reflective display.”

The switching only involves a change in the shape of the air layer − nothing happens to the solid surface itself. This is demonstrated by writing shapes on the surface underwater (making use of the contrast between the states) and taking the sample out of water: the surface emerges completely dry, and no traces of the writing remain.

The method for manipulating the air layer with the nozzle was developed by Tuukka Verho, graduate student in Aalto University. He was able to show that the reversible switching can be done with precision in a pixel-by-pixel fashion.

“This result represents the first step in making non-wettable surfaces a platform for storing or even processing information”, says Academy professor Olli Ikkala. Until now, lotus-inspired surfaces have been mainly developed for applications like self-cleaning, anti-icing or flow drag reduction. This research is a landmark example how the Nature teaches materials scientists towards functional materials.

An article entitled Reversible switching between superhydrophobic states on a hierarchically structured surface is published in PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and provides more in depth information about this project.

The article on the web (open access!).

Further information/interviews:
Dr. Robin Ras
tel. +358 9 470 23169 (EET)
Aalto University School of Science, Department of Applied Physics

  • Nanowerk (15.6.2012): Researchers develop optical displays from water and air
  • Science Daily (14.6.2012): Optical displays from water and air
  • Phys.Org (14.6.2012): Superhydrophobic surface helps researchers develop optical displays from water and air.
  • Tekniikka & Talous (14.6.2012): Aalto-yliopiston johtama tutkijaryhmä kehitti vesikuvaruudun
  • Science Business (14.6.2012): Display Surface Developed from Air-Water Interaction
  • Science Newsline (15.6.2012): Researchers Develop Optical Displays from Water And Air
  • Gizmodo
  • Discovery News
  • Gizmag
  • PressTrust
  • Science codex
  • R&D Mag
  • Science Blog
  • Innovations Report
  • BioPortfolio
  • Azom
  • DailyMe
  • Nano Patents and Innovations
  • Itespresso
  • Enterprisepost
  • e! Science News

25.3.2012 (Updated 26.3.2012)

Cellulose aerogels in world-wide news

SEM - NFC aerogel (CO2 dried)Talk held by Acad. Prof. Olli Ikkala at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society caught the attention of the global science media. The interesting properties of nanocellulose aerogels(1-5), such as floatation on water(6) and oil absorbency(7) were picked up by several news agencies, including BBC News.

Related published articles: (1) Enzymatic hydrolysis combined with mechanical shearing and high-pressure homogenization for nanoscale cellulose fibrils and strong gels; (2) Long and entangled native cellulose I nanofibers allow flexible aerogels and hierarchically porous templates for functionalities; (3) Making flexible magnetic aerogels and stiff magnetic nanopaper using cellulose nanofibrils as templates; (4) Photoswitchable Superabsorbency Based on Nanocellulose Aerogels; (5)  Inorganic Hollow Nanotube Aerogels by Atomic Layer Deposition onto Native Nanocellulose Templates; (6) Superhydrophobic and Superoleophobic Nanocellulose Aerogel Membranes as Bioinspired Cargo Carriers on Water and Oil; (7) Hydrophobic Nanocellulose Aerogels as Floating, Sustainable, Reusable, and Recyclable Oil Absorbents.


Major ERC Funding for Academy Professor Olli Ikkala

Academy Professor Olli Ikkala has received funding of 2.3 M€ from the European Research Council (ERC) aiming to create biomimetic materials with functional and responsive characters.


Summer Student Positions

We are looking for students to work as research assistants during the summer 2012.

The experimental work can be summarized in a bachelor’s thesis or special assignment. The working language is English.

Thank you! The application period has ended.


Open Positions in MolMat Group

There are several open positions for doctoral students and post-docs in the Molecular Materials group.

Read more on the Open Positions listing


Tiede Magazine on Biomimetics

Tiede magazine, the biggest Finnish popular science magazine, has published an extensive article on biomimetics. The article includes a section about the nacre mimetic composites by Andreas Walther and Olli Ikkala.

Tiede magazine homepage (in Finnish)

The original full paper in Nano Letters: “Large-Area, Lightweight and Thick Biomimetic Composites with Superior Material Properties via Fast, Economic, and Green Pathways”


Olli Ikkala Appointed Academy Professor

Olli Ikkala is one of the nine Professors who have been appointed Academy Professors for the five-year period 2012-2016. Congratulations!

“The newly appointed Academy Professors are leading-edge researchers in their own fields, both in Finland and internationally. They all have great potential to achieve major scientific breakthroughs. In their research, they will be tackling questions that are significant for society in a wider perspective.”

Academy of Finland news release


Robin Ras Appointed Academy Research Fellow

Robin Ras has been appointed Academy Research Fellow for the five-year period 1.9.2011-31.8.2016. Congratulations!

“Research posts as Academy Research Fellow offer researchers an opportunity to gain competence for the most demanding research posts or other expert positions after the postdoctoral research stage.”

Academy of Finland news release


Superhydrophobic Tracks and Knives

Aalto University has published a highlight on water droplet manipulation by digital microfluidics by Dr. Robin Ras and undergraduate student Henrikki Mertaniemi from the Molecular Materials group in collaboration with the Universities of Helsinki and Technion (Israel).

Aalto University News: “Water Drops Move on Water-Repellent Tracks like Marbles in Our Childhood Toys”

Advanced Materials: “Superhydrophobic Tracks for Low-Friction, Guided Transport of Water Droplets”

Videos of the phenomena in Youtube:


Cell Membrane Chemistry as a Challenge

Aalto University has published an interview with Dr. Sami Nummelin about his achievements in dendrimer chemistry.

“The membrane that surrounds all living cells, as a matter of fact the gatekeeper of all metabolism, is constantly a target for severe bombarding and cheating. Medicine might be able to help here, but only the kind based on good knowledge of the membrane structure.”

Aalto University News: “Cell Membrane Chemistry as a Challenge”

Nature: “Self-Assembly of Amphiphilic Dendritic Dipeptides into Helical Pores”

Science: “Self-Assembly of Janus Dendrimers into Uniform Dendrimersomes and Other Complex Architectures”


Kinetics of Cobalt Nanoparticle Synthesis

Nanowerk has published a highlight about Jaakko Timonen’s study of nanoparticle nucleation and growth, leading to accurate control of nanoparticle size.

Nanowerk: “Fundamental processes involved in nanoparticle synthesis still not fully understood”

Original full paper in Angewandte Chemie: “From Hot-Injection Synthesis to Heating-Up Synthesis of Cobalt Nanoparticles: Observation of Kinetically Controllable Nucleation”


Summer Student Positions

We are looking for students to work as research assistants during the summer 2011.

The experimental work can be summarized in a bachelor’s thesis or special assignment. The working language is English.

Thank you! The application period has ended.


Photoswitchable Nanocellulose Aerogels

Materials Views have published a highlight about Marjo Kettunen’s (née Pääkkö) nanocellulose aerogels with photoswitchable water absorption characteristics.

Materials Views: “Photoswitchable Nanocellulose Aerogels – Hydrophilic by Light, Hydrophobic by Night”

Original full paper in Advanced Functional Materials: “Photoswitchable Superabsorbency Based on Nanocellulose Aerogels”


Prisma Studio: Nanotechnology Documentary

Prisma Studio documentary about state-of-the-art nanotechnology features e.g. the nacre-mimetic composites from our group.

Prisma Studio (Yle Teema)

  • Thu 20.1. 20.00 pm
  • Sat 22.1. 17.05 pm (re-run)
  • Tue 25.1. 18.30 pm (re-run)
  • Wed 26.1. 23.25 pm (re-run)


Uniform Dendrimersomes from Janus Dendrimers

Chemical & Engineering News highlights Dr. Sami Nummelin’s dendrimersomes as one topic in its annual Chemical Year in Review.

Chemical Year in Review 2010: “Dendrimersomes Debut”

Original full paper in Science: “Self-Assembly of Janus Dendrimers into Uniform Dendrimersomes and Other Complex Architectures”


Finnish Academy of Science and Letters Vaisala Award

The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters has awarded prof. Janne Ruokolainen the Vaisala award for his achievements in physics research. The 15,000 EUR award was now awarded for the tenth time.

Finnish Academy of Science and Letters bulletin (in Finnish)

Aalto University bulletin (in Finnish)


Doctoral Dissertation

Lic.Tech. Sirkku Hanski will defend her thesis “Control of Self-Assemblies and Secondary Structures in Polypeptide-Surfactant Complexes” on 13th of December, 2010.

The dissertation will take place in Auditorium F239a (Otakaari 3, Espoo) at 12 o’clock. The opponent will be Dr. Patrice Rannou from CEA/CNRS/Universite J. FOURIER-Grenoble I, France.


Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award

Dr. Andreas Walther has been awarded the Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award in the “Materials” field for his achievements on biomimetic materials. The prize, worth EUR 10,000, has been awarded by an independent scientific committee of the Bayer Science & Education Foundation.

“Biomimetics: Tailor-made solutions from the world of biology for technical challenges: Dr. Andreas Walther from Aalto University in Helsinki / Finland receives the Bayer Early Excellence in Science Award 2010 in the materials category for the development of innovative, pearlescent biomimetic materials that exhibit impressive properties in terms of their mechanical stability and flame retardance. This makes them very interesting for use in maritime, aviation and aerospace applications. A new production process enables the cost-effective manufacture of hybrid materials thanks to the self-organizing properties of the individual components.”


Nanotechnologies for Future Mobile Devices

On September 19, 2010 Science published a highlight about the book Nanotechnologies for Future Mobile Devices edited by Tapani Ryhänen, Mikko A. Uusitalo, Prof. Olli Ikkala and Asta Kärkkäinen.


Large Area Nacre-Mimetic Composites

Several highlights appear on Dr. Andreas Walther’s large-area and lightweight biomimetic composite materials. For instance in Discovery News, Technology Reviews (by MIT), Nanotimes (March-2010), Aalto University,,,, MSNBC, AtoZNanotechnology,,,,, DNAIndia and specialchem4coatings.

Read the original full paper in Nano Letters: “Large-Area, Lightweight and Thick Biomimetic Composites with Superior Material Properties via Fast, Economic, and Green Pathways”


Silver Nanoclusters

Dr. Isabel Díez’s luminescent silver nanoclusters have been highlighted in MedGadget and Nanowerk.

Read the original full paper in Angewandte Chemie: “Color Tunability and Electrochemiluminescence of Silver Nanoclusters”