prof.dr. F.R. Wurm (Frederik)

Full Professor

About Me


Frederik R. Wurm (Prof. Dr. habil.) is the chair of the group “Sustainable Polymer Chemistry” (SPC) at the Universiteit Twente (UT, Enschede, NL). The group is located in the Faculty of Science and Technology (TNW) in the Department of Molecules and Materials (M&M).

The SPC group designs polymeric materials with molecularly defined functions that lead to macroscopic properties. In recent years, especially biobased and biodegradable materials have been the focus of Frederik's research and building the main line of the SPC group. The expertise of the SPC group covers the synthesis of (bio)degradable polymers and nanocarriers for agricultural or biomedical applications but also other potential applications are currently studied - always with a focus on the molecular control of the properties of the final materials. Frederik's favorite biopolymer is lignin, which is also the core of several research projects, e.g. biodegradable nano- and microcarriers for agriculture. SPC also researches new synthetic strategies and applications of (bio)degradable polyphosphoesters (PPEs) or develops new protocols for well-defined polyamines by living polymerization of aziridines.

Frederik has published over 250 peer-reviewed papers and more than 12,500 citations (May 2023).


Professional Experience

2020-Present Full professor and chair of the group “Sustainable Polymer Chemistry”, University of Twente, The Netherlands.

Habilitation in Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry

2012-2020 Group leader of "Functional Polymers", Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Mainz, Germany.


"Junior Faculty" Max Planck Graduate Center


2009-2011 Postdoctoral Humboldt fellow EPFL, Switzerland.




Dissertation at Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Germany.


"Diplomchemiker" Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Germany.

2006-2001 Studies of Chemistry Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, Germany.

Awards & Honors

  1. Polymer Chemistry Lectureship (2019)
  2. European Polymer Journal Award 2018 – Materials Today (2019)
  3. The “Dozentenpreis des Fonds der deutschen chemischen Industrie“ (2017)
  4. Reimund Stadler Award of the German Chemical Society (2016)
  5. Georg Manecke Preis der Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (2014)
  6. European Young Chemist Award of the European Chemical Society (2014)
  7. Fellowship of the Chem. Ind. Fund. of the German Chemical Industry Association (2012 and 2013)
  8. Rückkehrstipendium der Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung (2011-2012)
  9. DSM Science and Technology Award (3th place) (2009)
  10. Feodor-Lynen Fellowship Alexander-von-Humboldt-Stiftung (2009-2011)
  11. MAINZ PhD Award of the MAINZ Graduate School (2009)
  12. DAAD Fellowship for International Exchange (2004-2005)


Organizational Responsibilities

2022- present - Board of the Polymer Center Twente

2022- present - Co-Founder of LigniLabs GmbH

2022- present - Member of the Molecules Center Twente

2020- present - Chair of the group "Sustainable Polymer Chemistry"

2022- present - Editor for the European Polymer Journal

2019- present - Advisory Board Member of Polymer Chemistry (RSC)

2019-2022      - Editorial Board Member of Molecules (mdpi)

2018-2019      - Executive Board Member of European Polymer Journal (Elsevier)

2019- present  - Advisory Board Member Schering Stiftung

2012-2020       - Associated Member of the graduate school MAINZ (JGU, Mainz)

2012-2020       - Associated Member of the Center for Innovative and Emerging Materials


Engineering & Materials Science
Anionic Polymerization
Block Copolymers
Polyethylene Glycols
Ring Opening Polymerization

Ancillary Activities

  • LigniLabs GmbH
  • Phos4Nova B.V
    Scientific Advisor Phos4Nova


The “Sustainble Polymer Chemistry“ (SPC) group focusses on the development of novel synthesis strategies and polymeric materials to tackle different fundamental questions. The development of novel (bio)degradable materials, primarily based on phosphorus-containing polymers or biopolymers, such as starch or lignin, is a major research focus of the group. We combine modern organic and inorganic chemistry with precision polymer synthesis and colloidal formulations (miniemulsions, reactions at the interface, etc.) in order to produce smart materials for drug delivery, agriculture, adhesive technologies, flame retardants, and optics.


DNA as a blueprint for synthetic polyphosphoesters

Inspired by DNA, a natural polyphosphodiester, my group has especially driven the development of phosphorus-containing polymers, i.e. polyphosphoesters (PPEs). With the natural phosphate building block, biodegradable and biomimetic PPEs can be synthesized by different strategies. We take the bridging element from DNA to materials science as the installation of the phosphate group into the polymer main chain allows installing diverse chemical functionalities, which eventually control the properties of the materials such as chemical reactivity, folding, self-assembly, or interactions (functionality, responsibility, degradation, blood interactions). Such PPEs can be used in diverse applications and have an industrial interest (e.g. as surfactants or flame retardants). By a living ring-opening polymerization of cyclic phosphoesters, we were able to prepare libraries of functional PPEs, which degrade on demand and carry functional groups to allow drug attachment, surface-immobilization (Polym. Chem. 2018), adhesive (Biomacromolecules 2017) or anti-fouling properties (Nat. Nano. 2016), or flame-retardant properties (Polym. Chem. 2014). The class of PPEs has emerged in the last decade as a powerful polymer class for various applications and due to the versatility of its chemistry, it certainly will find applications in diverse areas of research and industry. We further developed a reliable protocol for the preparation of hydrophobic polyphosphoesters allowing the large-scale preparation of phosphate-based flame-retardants by engineering the chemical structure, we control the degradation during a fire event (collaboration project with BAM (Prof. Schartel)) (Polym. Chem. 2014, Angew. Chem. 2018).

In addition, smart polymers (with LCST and UCST) are accessible from PPEs (Polym. Chem. 2017). For example, amphiphilic polyphosphonate block copolymers carrying hydrogen-bonding motifs allowed us to assemble stimuli-responsive polymersomes, which can be reversibly opened and closed by a temperature trigger (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017). Such vesicles are a first step towards the development of compartmentalized reactors on the nano- or microscale that can release reagents. The overall hydrophilicity controls the interactions with blood proteins (Angew. Chem. 2018). Such materials have led to the unraveling of the “stealth effect” of nanocarriers which is an underlying principle for drug delivery (in collaboration with Universitätsmedizin Mainz) (Nat. Nano. 2016, Biomaterials 2015 & 2017). Nanocarriers, coated with hydrophilic PPEs exhibit a “stealth” effect, similar to the well-known poly(ethylene glycol), rendering them perfect biodegradable alternatives, especially for chronical diseases.

Plastics and Biodegradable Polymers

We live in a polymer age – our modern life is shaped by polymers every day. From food packaging to high-tech polymers in our laptops or cars, synthetic macromolecules surround us.

Research in the “SPC” Group is driven by the molecular design of (bio)degradable polymers – both fully synthetic or based on modified biopolymers.

We design biodegradable nanocarriers, i.e. nanoscopic packaging, of drugs, which we use together with the Uniclinics or the Biology department in Mainz for drug delivery – into cells for the treatment of human diseases, but also as targeted drug delivery inside of plants. The latter project especially targets the treatment of the grapevine trunk disease “Esca” – a deadly fungal disease that does not have a cure to date. We have developed a reliable protocol, based on modified wood components, that entrap a fungicide and allow a direct transport inside of a living plant and to treat the disease at the place of action – such a nanocarrier-mediated drug delivery for plants will reduce the amounts of pesticides which are sprayed on the fields in the agriculture in general.

Fully synthetic polyethylene-mimics are another major topic in this research area. We design monomers with breaking points, e.g. phosphoesters or orthoesters, that undergo hydrolysis or enzymatic cleavage under certain conditions. These very hydrophobic polymers might be able to replace the non-biodegradable polyethylene is certain applications as they ensure complete degradation. Further information can be found via the link of the interdisciplinary project “PlastX”.

Besides research on novel biodegradable polymers, we also conduct studies about commodity plastics and packaging. The results are published together with the PlastX workgroup (see external link). Shorter stories about plastics and packaging are currently published online via the institute’s Twitter account and cover for example explanations about “To Go”-products or biodegradable waste bags for organic waste. In a recent article (Haider et al. Angew. Chem 2019), we discuss the term “biodegradability” – and compare test methods from the lab to real-life applications that concern the biodegradability of plastics and polymers.

Sequence-controlled copolymers

Even 60 years after its discovery, living anionic polymerization is still the method of choice, when it comes to well-defined polymers of high molar mass, end-group functionality, block copolymers. The anionic polymerization is also very important in the industry to prepare block copolymers from vinyl monomers or epoxides, for example. The high control of the anionic polymerization allows also controlling comonomer sequences, either by sequential polymerization or a competing copolymerization of several monomers.

SPC develops comonomer systems, which undergo a selective sequenced copolymerization. By monomer design, we control the polymerization kinetics in order to prepare block copolymers (Gleede et al. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018) or (multi) gradient copolymers (Rieger et al. Angew. Chem. 2018 & Macromol. Rapid Comm. 2016).

In contrast to solid-supported synthetic strategies, our approach allows us to prepare sophisticated macromolecules on a large scale with high structural precision. The monomer design controls the reactivity.

A synthetic platform to realize such sequenced copolymers was established in the SPC in recent years: the living anionic polymerization of aziridines. Aziridines were missing in the monomer family for anionic polymerization and access to well-defined polyamine structures or copolymers with styrenes or epoxides are challenging or even impossible to prepare. Aziridine, or ethylene imine, is produced industrially and polymerized only by uncontrolled cationic polymerization. It has a plethora of applications, ranging from chelator, and wastewater treatment to gene transfection. The combination of such building blocks with other industrially relevant materials would be desirable to prepare novel materials with unprecedented properties. However, controlled synthesis of linear or branched poly(ethylene imine) (PEI) from aziridine had been missing. The only way for preparing linear PEI is the detour via oxazoline chemistry and subsequent hydrolysis. We established a novel monomer family for the living anionic polymerization, namely activated aziridines. By activation of the aziridine-ring with sulfonamides to allow nucleophilic ring opening, a variety of novel monomers and polymers becomes available. More importantly, base-initiated polymerization proceeds via a “living” mechanism, allowing the formation of polymer architectures or combinations with other monomer types. We were able to introduce several chemical functions into the polyaziridines, either in the activating group or as a pendant chain. Removal of the activating group, if desired, is possible by several methods to prepare polyamines which were not accessible so far.

The activating group can do more: by adjustment of the electron-withdrawing effect, the sulfonamide finely tunes the monomer reactivity and controls the synthetic primary structure. This allowed us to prepare sequence-controlled copolymers by a competing anionic polymerization of up to 5 different monomers in a one-pot and one-shot reaction (Macromol. Rapid Comm. 2016). This will allow us to prepare functional materials mimicking the primary structure of proteins and allow folding into hierarchical assemblies. In addition, chirality is currently installed into such synthetic primary structures to further control the chirality of the folding. The combination of aziridine chemistry with epoxides allowed us to prepare amphiphilic multi-block copolymers.

Compartmentalization is another handle to control the synthetic primary structure: By confining a copolymerization to nanodroplets in an emulsion, an ideal (random) copolymerization is forced into gradient copolymers. Polymerization began only inside the droplets. As that compound was gradually consumed, the change in concentration pulled ever-greater amounts of the other ingredient into the chains, creating a gradient effect.


Løvschall, K. B. , Velasquez, S. T. R., Kowalska, B., Ptaszek, M., Jarecka, A., Szczech, M. , & Wurm, F. R. (2024). Enhancing Stability and Efficacy of Trichoderma Bio-Control Agents Through Layer-by-Layer Encapsulation for Sustainable Plant Protection. Advanced Sustainable Systems. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/adsu.202300409
Brio Perez, M. (2024). A Journey Towards Responsive and Circular Polymer Brushes: Design and Applications. [PhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT, University of Twente]. University of Twente. https://doi.org/10.3990/1.9789036559805
Ruiz Deance, A. L., Siersema, B., Yoe, L. E. A. C. , Wurm, F. R. , & Gojzewski, H. (2023). Copolymerizing Lignin for Tuned Properties of 3D-Printed PEG-Based Photopolymers. ACS Applied Polymer Materials, 5(12), 10021–10031. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsapm.3c01875
Easton, Z. H. W., Essink, M. A. J., Rodriguez Comas, L. , Wurm, F. R. , & Gojzewski, H. (2023). Acceleration of Biodegradation Using Polymer Blends and Composites. Macromolecular chemistry and physics, 224(6), Article 2200421. https://doi.org/10.1002/macp.202200421
Gonçalves, J. P., Promlok, D., Ivanov, T., Tao, S., Rheinberger, T., Jo, S. M., Yu, Y., Graf, R., Wagner, M., Crespy, D. , Wurm, F. R., Caire da Silva, L., Jiang, S., & Landfester, K. (2023). Confining the Sol-Gel Reaction at the Water/Oil Interface: Creating Compartmentalized Enzymatic Nano-Organelles for Artificial Cells. Angewandte Chemie - International Edition, 62(11), Article e202216966. https://doi.org/10.1002/anie.202216966
Rheinberger, T., Rabaux, O., Jérôme, C. , & Wurm, F. R. (2023). The future of polyphosphoesters. European polymer journal, 200, Article 112464. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2023.112464
Suraeva, O., Kaltbeitzel, A., Landfester, K. , Wurm, F. R., & Lieberwirth, I. (2023). Nanoscale Control of the Surface Functionality of Polymeric 2D Materials. Small, 19(25), Article 2206454. https://doi.org/10.1002/smll.202206454
Mazzanti, G., Paajanen, M., Rytoluoto, I., Harjuhahto, J., Caprara, A. , Wurm, F., Lahti, K., Ciroth, A., Leproux, A., Kannampuzha, M., & Vergine, C. (2023). The NEWGEN European Union Research Project for a New Generation of HVDC Cable Systems. In 2023 AEIT HVDC International Conference, AEIT HVDC 2023 IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/AEITHVDC58550.2023.10179056
Rheinberger, T. (2023). Make a break with polyphosphoesters: From sequence control to biodegradable polymers and biomedical materials. [PhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT, University of Twente]. University of Twente. https://doi.org/10.3990/1.9789036557412
Chen, Y., Nozdriukhin, D., Michel-Souzy, S. , Padberg, C. , Wurm, F. R., Razansky, D., Deán‐Ben, X. L. , & Koshkina, O. (2023). Biobased Agents for Single‐Particle Detection with Optoacoustics. Small, 19(29), Article 2207199. https://doi.org/10.1002/smll.202207199
Hueppe, N. , Wurm, F. R., & Landfester, K. (2023). Nanocarriers with Multiple Cargo Load—A Comprehensive Preparation Guideline Using Orthogonal Strategies. Macromolecular rapid communications, 44(16), Article 2200611. https://doi.org/10.1002/marc.202200611

UT Research Information System

Google Scholar Link


Frederik teaches Organic and Polymer Chemistry and materials in several study programs displayed below. For further information, please contact the study advisor or Frederik.


Affiliated Study Programmes



Courses Academic Year  2023/2024

Courses in the current academic year are added at the moment they are finalised in the Osiris system. Therefore it is possible that the list is not yet complete for the whole academic year.

Courses Academic Year  2022/2023


Get in contact for more projects and descriptions or check out our Twitter account. A research summary is found on the SPC website.


Follow SPC on Twitter / X @FrederikWurm

Website research group: https://www.utwente.nl/en/tnw/spc/

In the press

November 2023 - Frederik was interviewed by salon.com about bioplastics 

July 2023 - Frederik talks about the new labs for LigniLabs in the newspaper „Mainzer Allgemeine“

June 2023 - Frederik talks about nanotechnology and prospects of the spin-off company LigniLabs with IHK

March 2023 - Interview about "forever chemicals" for heute journal (ZDF, German TV):

September 2022 - Interview about plastic bags and alternatives in supermarkets:

September 2022 - Interview in "Die Zeit" on recycled plastic toys:

August 2022 - Frederik talks with the newspaper „Mainzer Allgemeine“ about the Spin-Off company LigniLabs and lignin microcarriers

February 2022 -  Interview for "Der Spiegel" - Plastic waste problem:

October 2021 -  Interview for Spektrum on seawater-degradable polymers

October 2020 -  A chance for bioplastics - article in Spektrum.

June 2020 - Youtube video about plastic and sustainable alternatives

November 2019 – Youtube summary of Future award on drug delivery in plants:

July 2019 – TV broadcast (BR Alpha) Campus TV about reducing pesticides in agriculture and the use of biobased and biodegradable polymer carriers.

July 2019 – Interview of “The Guardian” about biodegradable polymers

June 2019 – Interview and TV broadcast for Sat.1 (regional TV news) about biobased and biodegradable nanocarriers in agriculture

May 2019 – Interview for Heise Verlag (Journal “Technology Review”) “Gutes Plastik – schlechtes Plastik“

May 2019 – Interview for Plastisphere Blog about biodegradable polymers

April 2019 – Interview with Dresdner Morgenpost on Sustainable Polymer Packaging

February 2019 TV Interview about polymer packaging and degradable polymers in 3sat

September 2018 Radio Broadcast in “Deutschlandfunk” about Drug Delivery in Agriculture.

September 2018 TV Beitrag in 3sat Nano about Biodegradable Polymer Packaging and composting.

August 2018 Interview in ZEIT online “Was, wenn nicht Plastik?” - about biodegradable polymers and packaging.

July 2018 Radio Broadcast in „SWR Aktuell“ (Frederik explains nanotechnology for treating grapevine plants)

June 2018 Radio Broadcast in „Deutschlandfunk“ (Frederik was interviewed about plastics and recycling).

June 2018 Public panel discussion about plastic packaging (“Leben im Plastikzeitalter: Wie ist ein nachhaltiger Umgang mit Plastik möglich?“, Frankfurt Institute for Social-Ecological Research).

June 2018 Journal Article in profil.at (Frederik was interviewed about degradable polyethylene alternatives)

June 2018 Radio broadcast at „Bayern 2” (Radioshow: IQ, Frederik was interviewed about nanotechnology for agricultural use)

May 2018 Journal Article “Plastik, gut verträglich." The research on biodegradable polymers of the "Functional Polymers" group was highlighted in the Max Planck Forschung Research Journal.

May 2018 Journal Interview for the journal EURO (Frederik interviewed about polymers in daily life)

April 2018 Article for schools: Techmax (Link: https://www.max-wissen.de/ ) about microplastics and degradable polymers. Our research about degradable polymers summarized (in German) for schools in Germany.

April 2018 Journal Article in “Gesunde Pflanzen (2018) 70:109–113“ – about treatment of plant diseases with biodegradable nanocarriers

February 2018 Youtube Video about BioRescue online (“BIOrescue - A novel biorefinery concept for mushroom compost”)

November 2017 Radio Interview; Frederik was interviewed about reusable plastic bags in supermarkets.

August 2017 Journal Article; The research about biodegradable polymers of the group was highlighted in “Chemie Extra” (ChemieXtra 7-8/2017)

April 2017 Public panel discussion at the Max-Planck-Forum (Berlin) – “Plastik – nicht nur Müll“

November 2016 Journal Article in “DocCheck” about our Research on the “Stealth” Effect of Nanocarriers

September 2016 Journal Article in “Krebs Nachrichten” on the “Stealth” Effect of Nanocarriers




News on utwente.nl

December 2023 - NWO Perspektief Proposal SusInkCoat granted - research on biodegradable and recyclable coatings and inks 

February 2023 - Our master students from the AMM Organic Materials and Polymer Science Class publish a review article on accelerated biodegradation in polymer blends and composites

December 2022 - Take-Off and TTT grants on research on biodegradable polyphosphoester - together with Timo Rheinberger and Olga Koshkina

November 2022 - Our master students from the AMM Organic Materials and Polymer Science Class publish a review article on composting of polyesters in the journal Waste Managment

November 2022 - Frederik‘s Inaugural lecture



Contact Details

Visiting Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Science and Technology
Carré (building no. 15), room C4241
Hallenweg 21
7522NH  Enschede
The Netherlands

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Mailing Address

University of Twente
Faculty of Science and Technology
Carré  C4241
P.O. Box 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands

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