Polymers in MEMS A: Chemistry, Synthesis and Applications

  • Type: Block-Lecture
  • Chair: Department of Mechanical Engineering
  • Semester: WS 23/24
  • Time:

    The lecture will be held as a block event at the end of the semester.

  • Lecturer: Dr.-Ing. Matthias Worgull
  • SWS: 2
  • Lv-No.: 2141853
  • Exam: oral exam, by appointment
  • Information:

    The lecture will be held as a block event at the end of the semester.


We all come in contact with numerous polymeric products in everyday life. From water bottles to packaging to the cover of the iPad, many things are made of polymers. Polymers are also important materials for modern microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) allowing cost effective mass market compatible products, e.g., in the life sciences or diagnostics. But polymers are not just cost-effective replacements for more expensive classical materials in MEMS (such as, e.g., silicon) – some polymers have intrinsic properties that make them ideal materials for sensors, actuators or templates for biology and chemistry in MEMS.

This lecture will introduce the basics of organic chemistry required for understanding what polymers are, how they are manufactured and which mechanisms are responsible for their unique properties. The lecture will highlight (in the context of MEMS but also in a wider scope) where and why polymers are applied with a strong focus on their chemical and physical properties (and on their synthesis).

Some of the topics covered are:

  • What is the basic chemistry of polymers? What are monomers, what are macromolecules and how are they formed?
  • How are polymers produced on industrial scale – but also on the laboratory scale? Numerous examples of how to make (commonly and lesser known) polymers will be discussed including materials such as Plexiglas.
  • Why are polymers so important for biochemistry and tissue engineering?
  • How do photoresists work and why do some polymers contract when exposed to light?
  • What are high-performance polymers and why do they have such a wide application range, e.g., in implants?
  • What polymers fuel the household 3D printing community and what materials do 3D printers such as, e.g., the RepRap work with?
  • How does 3D printing and rapid prototyping work and which polymers can be employed for which techniques?
  • Why does silicone always smell like vinegar and why is this material so important for modern day microfluidics? How do you built fluid-logic devices using silicone?
  • How do shape memory polymers remember their shape?
  • What are polymer foams and why are they not only important for heat insulation but also for organic chemistry?
  • How do glues work? Why are there two-component glues, what is superglue and how can you make glue from potatoes?

The lecture will be given in German language unless non-German speaking students attend. In this case, the lecture will be given in English (with some German translations of technical vocabulary). The lecture slides are in English language and will be handed out for taking notes. Additional literature is not required.

For further details, please contact the lecturer, PD Dr.-Ing. Matthias Worgull (matthias worgull does-not-exist.kit edu).

The examination will be held in oral form at the end of the lecture. The lecture can be chosen as “Nebenfach” or part of a “Hauptfach”. The second lecture of the lecture series “Polymers in MEMS B – Physics, manufacturing and applications” (which is also held in winter semester) can be combined with this lecture as part of a “Hauptfach”. In summer semester, the third part of the lecture series “Polymers in MEMS C – Biopolymers, Biopolymers and applications” will be given which may be combined with lectures and B to form a complete “Hauptfach”.

Aims of the lecture

The aim of the lecture is providing mechanical or chemical engineers, as well as interested students from the life or material sciences the basic knowledge required for understanding what polymers are and how they are made, highlighting their importance for modern MEMS systems with a wide view to applications in everyday life.


Bachelor (or equivalent level) students with basic knowledge in material science and chemistry. The lecture will cover all the basics required for understanding the organic chemistry so detailed previous knowledge is not required. Basic understanding of MEMS and its technologies is helpful but not mandatory.