Soft Matter

Hard Science for Squishy Stuff

Soft matter refers to a wide range of materials, such as polymers, gels, and foams. What sets these materials apart is they can be easily molded, shaped, or changed without requiring intense heat or complicated processes. Unlike metals or ceramics, soft matter is made up of bigger building blocks, which gives it unique chemical and physical properties. Soft matter materials can be used in a wide range of applications, from food items to medicines.

Soft matter research involves the use of tools such as microscopes and spectroscopes and computer simulation to study the complex behavior of these materials as well as develop new materials with tailored properties.

Polymers, a type of soft matter, are used in virtually every industry.

projected worth, in trillions, of the polymer market in 2030

Soft Matter Research at DMSE

DMSE’s work in soft matter is interdisciplinary, involving experimental and theoretical techniques from physics, chemistry, and biology to study the behavior of materials and develop new materials for applications such as energy storage and electronic devices. Researchers use X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy to probe the structure and properties of soft matter materials. Synthesis methods include self-assembly—designing building blocks that arrange themselves into structures and patterns without human intervention. DMSE researchers are exploring the potential of self-assembly for applications such as the efficient assembly of microelectronic device features and targeted drug delivery.

Molecularly hybridized conduction in DPP-based donor–acceptor copolymers toward high-performance iono-electronics

Synthesized a new category of polymers that can be used to produce more long-lasting and intelligent wearable devices. The materials efficiently convert ion-based signals from hydrated environments—for example, biological tissue—to electron-based signals that can easily be read through devices.

Today’s wearables are somewhat limited in their electronic performance because they waste a lot of energy sampling biological signals—like insulin from sweat, for example. We need to optimize wearables’ sampling efficiency without compromising electronic performance.

Wearables are becoming crucial in long-term health monitoring, so they need to be long-lasting, easy to manufacture at scale, and more seamlessly integrate with body functions.