PlaMatSu brought together distinguished plant biologists, polymer chemists and soft matter physicists to study the development, structure and properties of multifunctional plant cuticles on a fundamental level and to create novel materials and surfaces based on the working principles of cuticles. This external layer of bio-polymers and wax protects leaves and flowers and serves many functions for the plant. It can, for example, use its pores to adjust water permeability and thus regulate water evaporation, the absorption of carbon dioxide, and the release of oxygen. Moreover, its complex surface structure is responsible for a number of other functions at the micrometer and sub-micrometer level, such as self-cleaning, the formation of structural color and the regulation of insect-adhesion. Understanding the formation of these surfaces lead to the development of functional materials such as structurally colored surfaces, surfaces with tailored wetting properties for lubrication, materials that can repel insects or membranes that can control moisture permeability.
Innovative training networks are part of the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and provide students with the opportunity to pursue their academic training within an international multidisciplinary framework along with temporary industrial internships. The aim is to boost scientific excellence and business innovation, and enhances researchers’ career prospects through developing their skills in entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. PlaMatSu´s doctoral candidates profited from a network of interdisciplinary laboratories (chemistry, physics, biology and materials science), competence centers for bio-inspired research at the participating universities, such as the Swiss NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials. Moreover, the PhD students followed practical training courses in technology transfer, management, scientific soft skills, and communication to complement their qualifications in research and development.