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Self-financed students can still apply until June 30th, 2019.

Master SERP+ Programme

Interfaces, colloids and self-assembly


  1. Overview of interfaces, colloids and self-assembled systems; their inter-relationship.
  2. Gas-liquid and liquid-liquid interfaces. Surface and interfacial tension; surface Gibbs energy; Young-Laplace eq. and curved interfaces; methods for measuring surface tension; Kelvin eq. and consequences. Thermodynamics of interfaces: Gibbs model, surface excess, Gibbs adsorption isotherm. Insoluble monolayers and Langmuir-Blodgett films.
  3. Solid-gas and solid-liquid interfaces. Adsorption: Langmuir, Freundlich and BET isotherms; adsorption on porous surfaces and solid/liquid interface; self-assembled monolayers. Contact angle and wetting phenomena: Young’s eq.; measurement of contact angle; surface roughness and heterogeneity; thick films; applications. Biointerfaces.
  4. Colloidal systems: classifications; composition, structure, thermodynamic vs. kinetic stability. Colloidal dispersions. Particle size, shape and charge; origins of charge and zeta potential. Basic optical and transport properties.
  5. Self-assembled colloids. Surfactants, lipids and amphiphilic polymers. Molecular and thermodynamic aspects of self-assembly; models. Micelles, bilayers, liposomes and biomembranes: structure, properties and applications. Liquid crystals, microemulsions and emulsions. Phase diagrams of surfactants and lipids; control of self-assembly.
  6. Polymers in solution. Concentrations regimes; chain conformations; polymer solubility; Flory-Huggins theory; solvent quality and polymer conformation. Polyelectrolytes and block copolymers. Mixed polymer-surfactant systems.
  7. Colloidal interactions: DLVO theory of colloidal stability; coagulation and flocculation; non-DLVO forces.

Practical classes: surfactant micellization studies by conductimetry and tensiometry; adsorption isotherms; coagulation of sols; phase behavior/structure of lipid and surfactant systems.


To familiarize students with the physico-chemical foundations of interfaces, colloidal systems and self-assembly phenomena, and their application in materials and processes used in everyday life and industry; to develop experimental, presentation and communication skills on advanced topics of physical chemistry.

Recommended Books

  • “Physics and Chemistry of Interfaces”, H.J. Butt, K. Graf, M. Kappl, 2nd ed., Wiley, 2006.
  • “Principles of Colloid and Surface Chemistry”, P.C. Hiemenz, R. Rajagopalan, 3rd ed., New York, Marcel Dekker, 1997.
  • “Surfactants and Polymers in Aqueous Solution”, K. Holmberg, B. Jönsson, B. Kronberg, B. Lindman, Wiley, Chichester, 2002.

Teaching Staff

Eduardo Marques (Course Coordinator)
Agostinha Matos
Margarida Bastos


Lectures: 28 h
Practical classes/presentations: 28 h

Grading System

Exam: 40%
Practical classes: 30%
Presentations: 30%.