Our group is working on research topics that span from fundamental to highly applied. Below you can see an overview of the general topics of our current focus. Click the links below to see more information about individual projects and links to previous research articles on these topics.
Soft Matter Composites: Design and Development
The stiffness of synthetic materials can be easily tuned from soft to hard, but generally the toughness of materials scales inversely: soft materials are tough and resilient to damage, while hard materials are brittle, fracturing easily. Nature, in contrast, has developed many materials that range from soft to hard but all incorporate toughening mechanisms to prevent fracture. By observing materials in nature, we can see that they often possess hierarchical structures that can dissipate energy over many length-scales. Our goal is to mimic the essence of this design to make robust and functional synthetic materials.
Novel Soft Matter Characterization
Soft matter often exhibits unique and interesting functional characteristics. To understand the role of these new functions, novel characterization methods are required. On the molecular scale, we are interested in studying the local network design of hydrogels, to understand more about the heterogenous nature of these materials. On the macroscale, we are interested in studying friction and adhesion. Hydrogels often exhibit very low friction on the surface due to hydration layers. This characteristic is important for implementation as biomaterials. Adhesion, on the other hand, is a useful property for using hydrogels as building blocks of more complex devices. By better understanding these functions, we can accelerate the use of these materials in our daily lives.
Advanced Applications of Soft Matter
The ultimate goal of soft matter research is to develop devices that are similar in form and function to living organisms. Based on the new materials we have created, we can implement these into applications with the goal of supporting people and society. For example, we are developing biocompatible, load bearing materials that can act as artificial skin, ligaments, and tendons. These have the potential to help people who have suffered injuries such as burns or chronic arthritis. We are also researching methods to develop artificial muscles. These could help people who suffer from diseases that result in muscle wasting, and could also lead to the development of more human-like robots.