The research in the Soft Matter group focuses on soft mesoscopic materials, also known as complex fluids.
Examples of such systems are colloids, emulsions, polymers, surfactants. These are the building blocks of biological organisms, blood and other cells, DNA, proteins, etc. But this type of material also found in e.g. drug delivery systems and consumer products such as shampoo, shaving cream, paint, plastics and foodstuffs. "Soft" materials flow or deform easily under external forces as "mesoscopic" have-made objects that are large compared to simple molecules, but generally too small for the naked eye. These mesoscopic components often organize themselves into complex structures with very striking mechanical, optical, or functional properties.
The big difference is that molecular systems, the presence of mesoscopic objects, there is a relatively large amount of surface area in such systems are, these surfaces and their surface-specific interactions play an important role in the creation of the spectacular variety of properties of complex fluids systems. This applies to both the mechanical properties and for instance their chemical affinity. For biological activity, but also for example to understand the flow behavior of complex fluids, it turns out that the final material is very different than the parts. The core of the problem is to understand and describe this emergence: the spectacular collective behavior of complex systems arising from a multiplicity of simultaneous interactions between many particles or molecules.
The key question is:
How can the mechanical and (physico-) chemical properties of complex materials be understood from the building blocks and their interactions?