Soft matter research at Argonne focuses on the fundamental aspects of out-of-equilibrium and directed self-assembly of highly compliant materials for emerging energy applications and nano-fabrication. Our research paves the way for the discovery of tailored self-assembled materials and structures that may adopt useful ordered structures spontaneously, provide selective conductivity, regulate porosity or strength, control water permeability or air resistance, or manipulate optical and electrical properties.
Soft matter research combines experiment, theory, and simulations. It emphasizes strong cross-disciplinary ties with other research programs at Argonne, the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, and leading soft matter groups in the United States and worldwide. This theme makes active use of Argonne’s scientific user facilities, including the Center for Nanoscale Materials, the Advanced Photon Source, and the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.
Our long-term goals are to develop a fundamental understanding of equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium self-assembly in synthetic and bio-inspired systems, as it relates to DOE missions in materials science and engineering. We explore new approaches to synthesis and discovery of a broad range of self-assembling systems, including synthetic and bio-inspired materials, and create functional 2D and 3D self-assembled tunable structures by design. In much of our work, the assembly of distinct building blocks — such as biopolymers, block polymers, functionalized colloidal particles, or liquid crystals — is directed through the application of external fields. Some aspects of our research include dynamic active matter formed by microswimmers suspended in structured liquids (liquid crystals), or colloidal particles energized by an external field. For all these complex out-of-equilibrium systems, we develop predictive theoretical multi-scale models, and state-of-the-art software designed for leadership class computers.