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A Soft Materials Research Network at Lund University

Soft matter and materials are physicochemical systems typically characterized by large response functions. Examples involve soft nanotechnology and self-assembled structures, including nanostructured polymeric materials, nanocomposites, imprinting/recognition materials, encapsulation etc. Many materials have biological components, for example various biopolymers or peptides, and biological aspects also include tissues, biocomposites and biomimetic materials. These materials are often macromolecular structures or assemblies with length scales typically of the order of nanometers to micrometers. Because of the short structural length scale, the materials may have a large specific interfacial area that can be functionalized or specifically designed to control wetting, adsorption and adhesion. The combination of weak interactions between structural elements and a large number of degrees of freedom, result in large thermal fluctuations and macroscopic "softness", but also allows for responsiveness due to the sensitivity of equilibrium structures to external conditions. Soft materials research often requires a multidisciplinary approach with input and competence from several science and technology disciplines. Thus bridging physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and technology. In the present network we organize soft materials scientists and activities at Lund University. The network has a strong base in the Chemistry Department (Science Faculty and LTH) but also stretches out to other departments and faculties. In addition, it connects with other important national and international networks, such as the Nanometer Consortium in Lund, and SoftComp, a European consortium for soft matter composites research. Apart from bridging different research activities and stimulate new cross-disciplinary collaborations, it is a particular aim of the network to organize an infrastructure platform for soft materials characterization. The broad variety of soft materials generally share a common structural length scale, being in the 1 nm – 1 μm range, often referred to as the colloidal length scale. On this length scale, structures are characterized by small angle scattering of Xrays (SAXS) of neutrons (SANS), often in combination with electron microscopy and light scattering techniques. We see a strongly increasing demand for SAXS and SANS as characterization tools for soft materials. Thus, we are active partners both within MAX IV and ESS, the two large scale facilities, under construction and to be built in Lund, respectively. The SAXS beamline at MAX IV, that will be in full operation from early 2018, will be unique with respect to a number of parameters, in particular the coherence and the brilliance of the X-ray beam. New types of experiments will be available that are not possible today at the current MAX II storage ring. This includes measuring dynamics directly on the colloidal length scalewith X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS), and the performance of coherent diffraction imaging (CDI), a novel lens-less imaging technique. There is a need for informing, organizing and serving the soft materials community, with respect to these new opportunities, as well as continuously developing and pushing the performance of the SAXS and SANS techniques. The European Soft Matter Infrastructure project (ESMI),where Lund University, through Physical Chemistry, is an active partner, offer access to the coherent X-ray beamline cSAXS at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and SANS through the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science in Germany.


For further information, please contact:

Professor Ulf Olsson

Physical Chemistry

Lund University, Box 124, 221 00 Lund, Sweden

Phone: +46 46 222 81 59


LU researchers, active in soft matter science, can also be found here.