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14 december 2018

Approved FOM programme

Number 143.
Title Marginal soft matter: leveraging the mechanics of responsive networks (CMA)
Executive organisational unit BUW
Programme management Dr. C. Storm
Duration 2013-2018
Cost estimate M€ 1,7

In our programme we seek to create and probe a novel class of functional soft materials, focusing on fibrous networks. The objective of our programme is to create, control and characterize real-life marginal soft materials.

Background, relevance and implementation
Our programme centers around three specific themes to achieve this objective:

  1. Architecture: we will establish a fundamental understanding of how network connectivity and fiber bending, in other words, the network architecture, affect marginality and the ensuing mechanics. Experimentally, we manipulate these properties in soft micro- and macroscopic networks – ranging from networks created by 3D printing, to microscopic fibrin networks, cellulose networks and DNA hydrogels, created through self-assembly. We extend the celebrated mechanical theory of Maxwell to include polymeric and persistent meshwork's.
  2. Thermal Fluctuations: most soft matter is ruled by energies of the order of thermal energy, kT. Yet, little is known about the interplay between marginality and thermal fluctuations because the focus to date has largely been on marginality in athermal jammed particle packings. The intrinsic softness and range of relevant length scales in our materials offer a unique opportunity to exploit thermal fluctuations. Our preliminary theoretical work shows that signature marginal properties survive thermal fluctuations - and are, in fact, enriched by them. We will control the extent of fluctuations by varying the rigidity in fibrin and cellulose gels, probe their role for the mechanical response, explore them numerically and develop the theory of thermal marginal networks.
  3. Driven Networks: our materials are exquisitely sensitive. To take advantage of this sensitivity, we will drive our architectures by internal and external forces, actively and passively generated. We will explore the roles of mechanical frustration, prestresses, instabilities and activity, manipulating near-marginal fibrous architectures to reach novel functionalities, and develop the theory of driven marginal materials.

Each of these themes is addressed both theoretically and numerically.

The final evaluation will be based on the self-evaluation report initiated by the programme leader and is foreseen for 2019.

Please find a research highlight that was achieved in 2013 within this FOM programme here.