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Course catalogue

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Master SERP+ Programme - cohort 2020-2025

Interfaces, Colloids and Self-Assembly (6 ECTS)


I - Theoretical classes

Introduction to colloidal systems, soft nanomaterials and associated interfacial phenomena.

  1. Interfaces.
    1. Gas-liquid and liquid-liquid interfaces: surface/interfacial tension; consequences.
    2. Thermodynamics of interfaces: excess properties; Gibbs isotherm; monolayers.
    3. Solid-gas and solid-liquid interfaces: adsorption phenomena; main adsorption isotherms.
    4. Contact angle, wetting and spreading phenomena.
  2. Colloids, soft nanomaterials and self-assembly.
    1. Classes of colloidal systems: structure, composition, stability, electrical, optical and transport properties.
    2. Self-organized nanostructures: amphiphilic molecules; micelles, bilayers, liquid crystals, emulsions and microemulsions; rationalization models; phase diagrams.
    3. Polymers in solution and on surfaces; gels; surfactant/polymer mixed systems; rheological properties.
    4. Colloidal interactions and stability.
    5. Applications in nanotechnology, nanomedicine and industry.

II - Practical classes

Lab trainings: Studies on surfactant micellization by conductometry and surface tension measurement; determination of interfacial parameters. Adsorption of solutes on activated carbon: comparison of isotherms and measurement of specific surface area. Coagulation of gold sols: experimental verification of the Schulze-Hardy rule. Self-assembly studies of lipids and surfactants: formation of liposomes and liquid crystals; their characterization by light microscopy techniques.

Oral presentations: different topics on technical and industrial applications of colloids & interfaces.


This course aims to familiarize students with physicochemical concepts and fundamentals of colloidal systems, soft nanomaterials and associated interfaces, as well as their direct application in the understanding of processes and techniques used in nanotechnology and industry.

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • identify different classes of colloidal systems, soft nanomaterials and associated interfaces;
  • characterize the main physico-chemical processes involved at interfaces;
  • understand different types of colloidal systems, their properties and structure-function relationships;
  • recognize the basic fundamentals of the main methods of characterization of colloidal systems and soft nanomaterials;
  • rationalize and understand essential aspects of the mechanism of action of various colloidal nanomaterials and bulk materials of technological importance;
  • apply and develop research skills, sharing of knowledge and science communication skills.
Recommended Books
  1. Evans, D. F., Wennerström H. (1999) The Colloidal Domain - Where Physics, Chemistry and Biology Meet, 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-VCH.
  2. Hirst, L. S. (2013) Fundamentals of Soft Matter Science, 1st ed., Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  3. Butt, H.-J., Graf, K., Kappl, M. (2006) Physics and Chemistry of Interfaces. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.
  4. Hiemenz, P. C., Rajagopalan, R. (1997) Principles of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, 3rd ed.. New York: Marcel Dekker.
  5. Jönsson, B., Lindman, B., Holmberg, K., Kronberg, B. (2003) Surfactants and Polymers in Aqueous Solution, 2nd edition, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
  6. Marques, E.F., Silva B., (2013) Surfactant Self-Assembly, in Encyclopedia of Colloid and Interface Science, T. Tadros (ed.), Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 1202-1241.
  7. Marques E.F., Surfactant Vesicles: Formation, Properties and Stability. in Encyclopedia of Surface and Colloid Science. Taylor & Francis Group, New York, 2010, p. 1-20.


Teaching Staff

Eduardo Marques (responsible)
Agostinha Matos
Margarida Bastos


42 h (21h lectures e 21h practicals)

Grading System

The theoretical classes involve explanation of contents and interactive discussion with students. Practical classes comprise laboratory experiments with submission of lab reports. The students will also develop a modern a topic on colloids, nanomaterials and interfaces throughout the semester and will make an oral presentation of this topic for the class. The aim of these presentations is to stimulate team work, autonomous work and communication skills.

Type of evaluation: distributed evaluation with exam (mid-term exam + final exam).
The final grade, FG, is calculated according to this formula:
FG = 0.40 x G(exams) + 0.40 x G(labs) + 0.20 x G(oral presentation)
G(exams) = 0.50 x G(mid-term exam, E1) + 0.50 x G(final exam; E2).
To pass, the student must have: G(E1) ≥ 8, G(E2) ≥ 8, G(exams) ≥ 10 and FG ≥ 10.