Research

Overview: Our group is broadly interested in the area of applied soft matter. 

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Soft materials are defined by their molecular (carbon-based) chemical structure and their mesophasic character, spanning the range between liquid and solid-like properties.

We exploit molecular self-assembly to create nanoscale structures with targeted geometries. Using this synthesis strategy, we create materials with an astonishing degree of internal organization on extremely small (sub-nanometer) length scales. We employ a variety of highly specialized methods, from unique magnetic resonance techniques to high flux neutron and x-ray techniques. These methods allow us to probe internal structure, dynamics, and water motion with site specificity.

 

1. Soft matter for energy and the environment

Creating sustainable and renewable energy technologies and materials for environmental contaminant remediation is critical for tackling the cascade of problems that pollution and climate change have caused. We create and investigate new technologies for sustainable energy and the environment in which soft materials are an integral component. Systems of interest to our group include photocatalysis, water filtration, and others.

2. Interfacing materials with the body

The scope of biomaterials research at its inception was limited to hard medical implant materials. This definition has evolved to include soft implantable materials, soft interfaces for tissue, and more recently bioactive materials that are capable of participating in specific molecular interactions.

We strive to create soft matter that binds, folds, and recognizes biological signals including cell receptors, proteins, enzymes, and membranes. Research projects in this area have broad applications, for example in tissue engineering for burns and traumatic injuries and in neural implant interfaces for prostheses.

3. Dynamics in soft matter

Molecular dynamics (MD) is a tremendously important area of computational chemistry and has revolutionized our understanding of biological events. In our group, we develop and implement experimental techniques based on magnetic resonance, neutron, and x-ray methods that are comparable to MD simulations. With these techniques we directly measure conformational dynamics in soft matter.