Department of Chemistry and Materials Science

Multifunctional Materials Design

The Multifunctional Materials Design lead by Prof. Jaana Vapaavuori focuses on experimental studies of soft materials, as well as inorganic-organic hybrids. Our ultimate goal is to combine multiple functionalities in the same material through supramolecular chemistry and designing hierarchical structures. We also aim to convert external stimuli into useful responses via photoactuation, photovoltaics and photocatalysis.

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Our research group:

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MMD research group 30/06/21

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MMD research group 30/06/21

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MMD research group 30/06/21

Our current research focuses involve:

  1. Breath figures & hierarchical self-assembled structures
  2. Functional bioaerogels & biocryogels
  3. Nanocellulose in energy devices
  4. Replication of the nature’s functional surfaces
  5. Plantvirusparticles as nanomaterials
  6. Polymer actuators
  7. Wearable pressure/strain and temperature sensors

Breath figures & hierarchical self-assembled structures

We develop novel methods for nano- and microstructure deposition and to investigate their use in bio/mechano-sensing with a potential application in wearable devices. This object can be achieved via incorporating different self-assembly processes in one synthesis procedure, for example combining breath figure techniques, block copolymer phase separation and nanoparticles self-organization. In addition, the use of dip-coating, which is a cost-effective, simple and scalable technique for film deposition, can reveal a nanostructured pattern without post-processing.

Functional bioaerogels & biocryogels

Functional bioaerogels & biocryogels

Our group aims to understand, how bio-based materials – even biowaste – can be converted into functional highly porous materials, called aerogels and cryogels. With current work, biodegradable materials are used to prepare the aerogels, which could achieve the promising material properties, such as high specific surface area, low density and high porosity. According to the different requirements of final applications, the material properties can be easily tuned by versatile supramolecular crosslinking strategies.

Current work, we combine photo-responsive azobenzene with matrix polymer by supramolecular interaction and then coat the complexes on thick stretchable substrate to build a double-layered structure. Upon stretching, the wrinkle structure will be created due to the mechanical properties mismatch between the top layer and substrate. Under the light illustration, wrinkle structure will be erased and the rate of erasure is tunable by adjusting the azobenzene content. Furthermore, with wrinkle structure, the surface area will be significantly increased, which could be used for further deposition and potential applications.

Nanocellulose in energy devices

Is it possible to produce/store energy from trees or other bio-based materials only? Our main focus is to fabricate “green & sustainable” materials that are based on cellulose, the most abundant organic compound on earth, to reduce the environmental pollution and CO2 emissions in the world.

Nanocellulose in energy devices

Cellulose can be employed in flexible/stretchable energy storage devices, including batteries and supercapacitors, as an active material or/and electrolyte, due to its low cost, high biocompatibility, and biodegradability. It can also be used as transparent and flexible films in solar energy applications (e.g. solar cells) and replace glass, for easier recyclability and greener planet.

Replication of the nature’s functional surfaces

Replication of the nature’s functional surfaces

Fascinating properties in nature have always inspired scientists to mimic and employ their functionalities. Among them, some plant leaves, such as those of many cabbage plants, benefit from the possibility of removing dirt as the rain falls and the droplets sweep the surface clean. Such surfaces are known to be self-cleaning. The self-cleaning property is quite desirable in various industries. For example, they can be quite useful in solar cells where their efficiency degrades as dirt piles-up. Here, we pursue replication of such functionalities by imprinting the surface structures of promising leaves.

Plant virus particles as nanomaterials

Plant virus particles as nanomaterials

Plant viruses are emerging nanomaterials with highly-customizable and complex features. Potato virus A (PVA) is a plant virus, which produces long flexuous nanowire-like particles with very high aspect ratio. Their ease of production, monodisperse nature and customizability makes them highly suitable candidate for nanomaterial applications. In our group, we explore novel strategies to implement PVA-nanoparticles in emerging photovoltaics.

Polymer actuators

Polymer actuators

Certain polymer materials, such as nylon, inherently possess thermally activated structures. In our research we make yarns from twisting and coiling this type of a material to produce thermally-triggered actuators. These actuators either contract or expand based on the provided thermal energy, and they could be used in applications such as smart fabrics, wearable technology, and soft robotics. Our aim is to understand the polymer structure and the formation of the yarn itself to improve the functioning of our mobile material, and in addition scope out future design possibilities for such a material.

Wearable pressure/strain and temperature sensors

Our group is devoted to fabrication of novel pressure, strain and temperature sensors based on nanomaterials. Our research includes fundamental materials and chemistry innovations as well as important device applications for monitoring human health. We create and apply innovative sensors to understand complex human electrophysiological activity.


We are a group that embraces cross-disciplinary research and co-creative approaches. If you are interested in our projects or join the group, please contact Prof. Vapaavuori by e-mail.

Contact information:

Jaana Vapaavuori, kuva: Helena Seppälä / Aalto-yliopisto
Professor Jaana Vapaavuori

Mailing address: Department of Chemistry and Materials Science, Aalto University, P.O. Box 16100, FI-00076 AALTO, Finland

Visiting address: Office B209b, Kemistintie 1 (Chemistry building), 02150 Espoo, Finland

Lobby service in the Chemistry building: 
+358 50 384 1658

You can approach us by sending an e-mail to [email protected]

Our projects:

Research group members:

Related content:

Recent MMD Master's Thesis presentations

Recent Master's Thesis presentations by the members of the Multifunctional Materials Design research group

Illustration of three students presenting a chart

MMD research group at the CHEM Research Day

Doctoral candidates and postdocs of the Multifunctional Materials Design research group presented their work via online posters at the internal networking event

Materials Science

New Academy Projects to be launched in September

New Academy Projects funded by the Academy of Finland involve expertise from all six Aalto schools

Organ type of image with white "veins" and small bacteria dots in red background, original image by Valeria Azovskaya

Five new Marie Curie fellows join Aalto

The prestigious research grants supports international researchers to travel abroad to work.

An autumnal aerial view of Aalto University campus from Laajalahti, autumn colours, yellow and orange, are prominent in the trees

EU grants for smart materials and next generation LEDs

Three million euros grants to Assistant Professor Jaana Vapaavuori and Postdoctoral Researcher Konstantinos Daskalakis to make environmentally friendly materials

Jaana Vapaavuori (left) and Konstantinos Daskalakis (right)

Solar energy through ChemisTree

Is it possible to use trees in electricity production? Surprisingly, yes, it is! Transparent cellulose films enable greater efficiency of solar cells through their haze effect.

Solar Energy Through ChemisTree Photo: Glen Forde

Jaana Vapaavuori: From dancer to researcher

Professor of functional nanomaterials would like to combine technology and art in her research.

Jaana Vapaavuori, kuva: Helena Seppälä / Aalto-yliopisto

Young Researcher of the Year develops multifunctional materials

The Finnish Foundation for Technology Promotion has named Assistant Professor Jaana Vapaavuori as Young Researcher of the Year for 2020. Vapaavuori's work is guided by design thinking and the optimal utilisation of resources.

Jaana Vapaavuori

Bacteria factories and soft robots

Tailored molecules and materials could revolutionise the chemicals industry, move fabrics and make solar panels more ecological.

Jan Deska, Jaana Vapaavuori, kuva: Jaakko Kahilaniemi

Latest publications:

Multiscale Hierarchical Surface Patterns by Coupling Optical Patterning and Thermal Shrinkage

Hamidreza Daghigh Shirazi, Yujiao Dong, Jukka Niskanen, Chiara Fedele, Arri Priimagi, Ville P. Jokinen, Jaana Vapaavuori 2021 ACS applied materials & interfaces

Ultrathin-Walled 3D Inorganic Nanostructured Networks Templated from Cross-Linked Cellulose Nanocrystal Aerogels

Arto Hiltunen, Tyler Or, Kimmo Lahtonen, Harri Ali-Löytty, Nikolai Tkachenko, Mika Valden, Essi Sarlin, Emily D. Cranston, Jose M. Moran-Mirabal, Jaana Vapaavuori 2021 Advanced Materials Interfaces

An open-source camera system for experimental measurements

Kim Miikki, Alp Karakoç, Mahdi Rafiee, Duck Weon Lee, Jaana Vapaavuori, Jennifer Tersteegen, Laura Lemetti, Jouni Paltakari 2021 SoftwareX

Highly ordered CuSbS2 nanotube arrays: Controlled synthesis and electrochemical properties

Shima Moosakhani, Hamidreza Daghigh Shirazi, Simo-Pekka Hannula 2021 Materials Letters

Understanding nanodomain morphology formation in dip-coated PS-b-PEO thin films

Hoang M. Nguyen, Ariane Mader, Swarnalok De, Jaana Vapaavuori 2021 Nanoscale Advances

Controllable Production of Ag/Zn and Ag Particles from Hydrometallurgical Zinc Solutions

Zulin Wang, Pyry-Mikko Hannula, Swarnalok De, Benjamin P. Wilson, Jaana Vapaavuori, Kirsi Yliniemi, Mari Lundström 2021 ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering

Photobreathing Zwitterionic Micelles

Jukka Niskanen, Jaana Vapaavuori 2019 ChemSystemsChem

Cellulose Nanocrystal Aerogels as Electrolyte Scaffolds for Glass and Plastic Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

Tyler Or, Kati Miettunen, Emily D. Cranston, Jose M. Moran-Mirabal, Jaana Vapaavuori 2019 ACS Applied Energy Materials

Photocontrol of Supramolecular Azo-Containing Block Copolymer Thin Films during Dip-Coating

Jaana Vapaavuori, Josué Grosrenaud, Antti Siiskonen, Arri Priimagi, Christian Pellerin, C. Geraldine Bazuin 2019 ACS Applied Nano Materials
More information on our research in the Research database.
Research database
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