POLYMERS AND SOFT MATTER

Polymers and Soft Matter

STAFF

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The research line on “Polymers and Soft Matter” is developed by the group of ‘Polymers and Soft Matter’, which exists since 1985. Taking inspirations from classical polymer science, soft matter science and the physics of condensed matter, the group has developed over the last years a robust and pioneering methodology to investigate structure and dynamics of polymer and glass-forming systems in general at different length and time scales. This methodology is based on the combination of relaxation techniques, neutron and X-ray scattering, microscopy techniques and molecular dynamics simulations. The organization of the group is in fact driven by this methodology and the staff of the group is composed of experts in different techniques/ methods, all of them being involved in the scientific objectives defined at any time. Recently, the group has strengthened its capabilities in chemical synthesis oriented to polymers. These capabilities are of utmost importance to break into the general arena of soft matter sciences.

The development of new materials of increasing complexity based on polymers and soft matter, poses challenging problems to basic sciences. The relationship between structure and dynamics at different length and time scales, the understanding of the interplay of geometry and topology, the characterization of the interfacial features and the dynamics at the interfacial level, the new confinement effects, the way local friction arises in crowded environments that are chemically heterogeneous, are, among others, fundamental problems but of utmost importance for the fu- ture development of novel technologies based on such materials. A combination of experimental and, theoretical and simulation efforts, together with the development of advanced chemical synthesis routes, is essential to progress in this interdisciplinary area.

The general scientific objective of the group is to achieve a fundamental understanding of the interplay between structure and dynamics at different length and time scales (micro, nano, meso, macro) in systems of increasing complexity based on polymers and soft matter, in particular, multi-component, nano-structured and biopolymer materials. These materials exhibit complex dynamics and rheology and, in many cases, show hierarchical relaxations over many different timescales. This in turn affects the processing and properties of the final materials. In order to rationally design appropriate materials and processes for various technological applications, a rigorous knowledge based approach is needed. This is especially urgent in the face of current opportunities offered by tailored molecular engineering of polymers at the industrial scale and the proposed use of these materials in nano-structured composites for smart applications in devices, electronics and high performance applications.

The scientific strategy of the group is based on three main points:

  • Unique methodology based on the combination of different experimental techniques (relaxation, scattering and microscopy) and computer simulation.
  • Development of advanced polymer oriented chemical synthesis.
  • Well-established collaborations with well-known groups in the field, in particular with those showing complementary capabilities.
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RESEARCH FACILITIES

DIELECTRIC SPECTROSCOPY LAB

Different frequency and time-domain spectrometers covering more than 16th orders of magnitude in frequency/time.

MOLECULAR SPECTROSCOPY TECHNIQUES

Infrared Spectrometer FT-IR, Terahertz Spectrometer.

MICROSCOPY LAB

Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), Optical/Confocal Microscope, Desktop Scanning Electron Microscope.

X-RAY LAB

Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS) technique: Rigaku PSAXS-L with simultaneous Wide Angle X-Ray Scattering (WAXS) option, Wide Angle X-Ray Scattering (WAXS) technique: Bruker AXS D8 ADVANCE.

THERMAL ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC), Pressure-Volume-Temperature (PVT), Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA), Dilatometry (DIL).

MECHANICAL CHARACTERIZATION TECHNIQUES

Rheometry with simultaneous electric impedance analysis Miniature Material Tester.

CHEMISTRY LAB

Different techniques oriented to Polymer Synthesis and Click-Chemistry.

TECHNIQUES FREQUENTLY USED IN LARGE SCALE FACILITIES

Inelastic and Quasielastic Neutron Scattering, X-ray Scattering by Synchrotron Radiation.

COMPUTING FACILITIES FOR MOLECULAR DYNAMICS (MD) SIMULATIONS

Several computing clusters at CFM and other institutions (like DIPC) under collaborative research, Software for atomistic and coarse-grained MD-simulations.