Dr. Miriam M. Unterlass interviewed in austria’s quality newspaper “DerStandard”

Miriam was interviewed by “DerStandard”, one of austria’s leading newspapers with a strong emphasis onto science. She was asked to explain her scientific work that provides UGP materials core technology.

You can find the whole text online here. (It is in german)

In case you cannot access it anymore, you can find the images of the website appended. (if you want the full pdf, look here )
As a little extra we have translated the text below for those not speaking german.

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Translated Text

Original Text written by Alois Pumhösel, DiePresse (diepresse.com, Retrieved: 22.10.2017)

Orignal URL: http://derstandard.at/2000066197970/Hochleistungsmaterialien-Komplexe-Strukturen-aus-Spaghetti
(Slight Variations for better readability in english have been applied)

High-Performance-Materials – Complex Structures like Spaghetti


Start-Price Winner Dr. Miriam M. Unterlass investigates the so-called hydrothermal polymerization

In water veins deep in the interior of the earth – if the pressure is high enough – aluminum compounds turn into sapphire crystals. Miriam Unterlass of the Institute of Materials Chemistry of the Vienna University of Technology has been working on similar transformations for several years. Together with her research group, the scientist has chosen this type of mineral synthesis as a model for producing special polymers: high-performance polymers which are distinguished by their particular stability and temperature stability and yet are environmentally friendly.

In addition to the starting materials, only water and the correct pressure and temperature parameters are required. No harmful solvents or catalyst substances are necessary, she points out.

Start price for material research

For her research this year she received the highly recogniced START price of the science fund FWF. With this means she can not further develop which hydrothermal polymerization, as the process is called, over the next few years.

The material scientist and chemist can already point to some successes in her “green synthesis of high-performance materials”.

“In the meantime, we are able to produce a whole series of polymer classes, which can be linked in different ways, and smaller molecules with dyestuff properties can also be created.” For example, by using so-called hybrid materials in the production process a microbial plastics and inorganic ceramics are simultaneously created. This further improves heat resistance. The materials that are produced in Miriam Unterlass reactors are particularly suitable for applications in microelectronics or aerospace applications.

Three-dimensional structures

A property which is achievable by the hydrothermal polymerization is the high crystallinity of the materials, similar to the mentioned sapphires. This aspect will be brought into the foreground as part of her start-up project. “So far, we have only achieved crystallinity in polymer chains, but now we want to create materials with a high atomic order in two or three dimensions,” says Unterlass. In other words: “Until now, the polymer chains were like uncooked spaghetti in the pack. In the future, we would like to build complex structures from them.”

These structures would be distinguished by being very light, extremely temperature-resistant and chemically stable. They could be used as powerful filters for separating gases in industrial plants. They would thus increase the efficiency of rechargeable batteries or enable novel solar systems.

“I would like to produce materials that can be used for green energies,” Unterlass emphasizes. In order for the research results to actually reach industrial practice, the scientist is in the process of founding a corresponding spin-off company.

Own research group with 26

The scientific career at the 1986 chemist born in Erlangen, who was already in charge of his own research group at the age of 26, was already clear about her path early. “I’ve always been interested in physics , biology, and chemistry,” says Unterlass, “but had no preference.”

The decision brought an administrative hurdle after her matriculation in France. “In Germany, there were problems with the recognition, I got the university entrance only for the performance subjects covered in France,” says the START price winner.

“The message was: I can study, but only chemistry or mineralogy. I thought: Well, I’ll just do chemistry.”

Unterlass studied in Würzburg, Southampton and Lyon. Later her interest in materials science and chemical engineering came together and enabled her to operate reactors, which was “inconceivably helpful to research”. She wrote her doctoral thesis in Berlin, followed by a postdoctoral thesis in Paris before she joined a job vacancy in Vienna.

How is all this going? “I am not like one for big breaks and they were not necessary because I always knew what I wanted.”

(Alois Pumhösel, 22 October 2017)

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