Hot article: Evaporation-induced alignment of nanorods in a thin film

For many products such as paints, inks, or cosmetics, the evaporation of water or another solvent is one of the key stages of their application. It not only serves as the medium in which all the other formulation ingredients are dispersed, but also plays a role in what the final structure of the dried product will be and therefore determines its properties. As the product dries, the air/water interface can trap some of the particles resulting in an enrichment of that ingredient at the top of the dried surface, or hydrodynamic phenomena can result in convection flows that recirculate the ingredients to obtain a more homogenous dried product. How these phenomena affect the different ingredients is also influenced by their shape, i.e. whether they are spherical, rod-like, cube-like, or others. In the case of particles with a preferential direction, such as rods, they might have a strong tendency to align parallel to the air/water interface to minimize their energy.

Graphical Abstract of the article

In this publication, the authors simulate the drying process of a dispersion containing rod-like particles to obtain insights on the effect of different parameters on their final orientation in the dried film. They investigate how and when the transitions in orientation take place, providing useful guidance for the optimization of systems which involve rod-shaped particle such as gold or zinc oxide nanorods.

Comments from the authors:

  • Above a certain volume fraction, rod-shaped particles spontaneously align in one direction, reducing the total excluded volume of the system. This is called the isotropic-nematic phase transition, first predicted by Onsager.
  • During solvent evaporation of a thin film, the concentration field become inhomogeneous in the direction vertical to the substrate: particles are concentrated mostly at the liquid-air surface and phase transition starts from the top surface.
  • The structural arrangements of rod-shaped particles are closely related to the dynamics of evaporation, particle aggregation, and the phase transition during the evaporation of a thin film.
  • However, as for the evaporation-induced deposition patterns, few studies have been devoted to the dynamic aspects of the phase transition of rodlike particles in a drying film.
  • We obtain spatiotemporal evolution of phase transition processes of rod-shaped particles in a vertically drying thin film.
  • It is shown that indeed the evaporation dynamics can alter the orientational configuration in equilibrium to meta-stable states.
  • This alternation from a stable state is mainly due to the anisotropic kinetics of particle diffusion coupled with the dynamics of solvent evaporation.

Citation to the paper: Evaporation-induced alignment of nanorods in a thin film, Multi-component colloidal gels: interplay between structure and mechanical, Narina Jung, Byung Mook Weon, and Masao Doi. : Soft Matter, 2020, 16, 4767. DOI: 10.1039/d0sm00482k.

To read the full article click here!

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the Department of Materials, Loughborough University, UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hot article: Multi-component colloidal gels: interplay between structure and mechanical properties

Gels are very present in your daily life; the shampoo that you wash your hair with, the gelatine in your mince pies, or your toothpaste. In these examples, the gel is composed of a large amount of liquid which is entrapped in a three-dimensional network of molecules such as surfactants or polymers. Although their liquid content is much larger than their solid content, gels present solid-like mechanical properties such as the presence of an elastic regime at low strain. There is a particular type of gel where this network, instead of being formed by a sequence of molecules, is formed by chains of tiny solid particles (colloids). These are known as colloidal gels.

 

In this publication, the authors present a thorough numerical study where they model the formation of colloidal gels whose networks are composed of up to three different types of particle chains. Moreover, they correlate the resulting structures with their mechanical properties, enabling the authors to establish predictions on the performance of these gels for different applications.  The insights presented in this work are of high relevance not only to advance the understanding of colloidal gels but also to the design of novel soft materials with tailored mechanical properties.

Comments from the authors:

  • Understanding the coupling between networks in multi-gels is crucial: different type of mechanical coupling may have very different consequences on the mechanics of the composite material!
  • Simulations allowed us to explore scenarios hard to realize in experiments (e.g. the two networks are completely repulsive with each other) but important to disentangle the different ingredients: the gel morphology, the strength of each component and the coupling between the two networks. By doing so, we discovered a mechanism potentially important for tougher gels that we would have not considered otherwise.
  • We computed the macroscopic mechanical response, similar to what one would get from rheology measurements in experiments, but analyzing the microscopic motion and structure allowed us to nail down the origin of that macroscopic response.
  • We found that increasing the complexity in our gels, by adding multiple same gel components that are repulsive with each other, results in an extended linear regime compared to pure gels. This extended linearity is a consequence of the steric repulsion between different components and highlights the importance of cooperative effects.
  • By studying numerically the mechanical response, we showed that our model gels, upon increasing the number of components, become softer and yield at much larger strain than normal gels.
  • We also found that the repulsive interaction between different components prevents compactification of the network and allows multi-gels to exhibit collective reorganization to resist bigger deformations than pure gels.
  • Our numerical study suggests new strategies of tuning the mechanics of soft composite materials by controlling the inter-gel interactions and may open the road to the design of new materials of great use in soft robotics, batteries and stretchable electronics.

Citation to the paper: Multi-component colloidal gels: interplay between structure and mechanical, C. Ferreiro-Córdova, E. Del Gado, G. Foffi and M. Bouzid. Soft Matter, 2020,16, 4414-4421. DOI: 10.1039/C9SM02410G.

To read the full article click here

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at the Department of Materials, Loughborough University, UK.

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2019 Soft Matter Outstanding Student Paper Award Winner

We are pleased to introduce the Soft Matter Outstanding Student Paper Award. This new annual award recognises outstanding work published in the journal, for which a substantial component of the research was conducted by a student. Read below for more information.

Our 2019 Winner 

The inaugural recipient of the 2019 Soft Matter Outstanding Student Paper award is Ms Morgan Barnes, PhD student within the Verduzco polymer group at Rice University, for her contributions towards the paper titled ‘Direct shape programming of liquid crystal elastomers’ (DOI: 10.1039/C8SM02174K).

This paper is free to read until 1st July – click here to access!

Article graphicLiquid crystalline elastomers (LCEs) are shape-shifting materials promising for applications ranging from biomedical devices to soft-robotics. However, programming complex (non-planar) shape changes has been a challenge. In this work, we took advantage of the double network structure of LCEs to achieve complex shape changes by balancing the first and second network crosslink densities. The initial shape is defined by the mold during the first network cure and the shape-change is programmed by mechanically deforming the LCE into the desired shape prior to the second network cure. This enabled us to create a variety of complex shape changes not previously possible, such as an LCE sheet that reversibly curls into a flower and another that morphs into the broad and sharp features of a face.

This work has previously featured in Chemistry World – read the full article here!

Eligibility

In order to be eligible for this award, the nominee must:

  • Have been a student at the time the research was conducted.
  • Be first author of a research article published in 2019 in Soft Matter.

Selection Process

In order to choose the winner of the 2019 Outstanding Student Paper Award, a shortlist of articles that were published throughout the year were selected by the editorial office and then subsequently assessed by the journal’s Editorial Board members. The winner was selected based upon the significance, impact and quality of the research.

Prize

The winner of the Outstanding Student Paper Award will receive an engraved plaque and a travel bursary of £500 to use towards a meeting of their choice. 

***

To have your paper considered for the 2020 Soft Matter Outstanding Student Award, simply indicate upon submission if the first author of the paper fulfils this criteria.

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Hot article: Electrically controlled topological micro cargo transportation

Did you know that you have liquid crystals at home? They sound like an outer space material, but they are the basis of the main technology behind the images you see on your TV or computer screen – Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). Their behaviour is quite unique, as they show both solid- and liquid-like features. Liquid crystals present some degree of ordering of their molecules as solids do, but at the same time the ease and speed at which they can rearrange such ordering belongs to the realm of liquids.     

Schematic and optical micrographs of nematic layer

In this publication, the authors take advantage of these features by designing a liquid crystal system which has two areas with different molecular orientations. They show how microparticles can be trapped at the interface between these two areas, and that such an interface can be moved by applying an external voltage to the system. They achieve a precise control over the interface movement, enabling a controlled translation and precision positioning of the microparticle. The insights presented in this work are of high relevance to the design of novel lab-on-chip devices for sensing applications as well as optoelectronic devices.

Comments from the authors:

  • This paper describes how we achieved programmable and directional transport of microparticles immersed in a fluid, referred to as colloidal microparticles.
  • The fluid was a nematic liquid crystal, which has anisotropic physical properties. We used different alignments of the nematic liquid crystal molecular orientation at the two opposing plates that confined the fluid – molecular orientation was parallel (planar) to the lower confining plate whilst the molecular orientation was perpendicular (homeotropic) to the upper confining plate.
  • This “hybrid” nematic alignment broke symmetry so that there were two possible hybrid aligning states, with a topological defect line between them.
  • We applied an in-plane electric field by applying an A.C. voltage V to stripe electrodes to distort the topological defect line and we used the dynamic evolution of the tortuous line to collect, trap and transport the colloidal particles.
  • We had also proscribed the alignment at the spacers around the layer so that the topological defect formed between the two possible hybrid aligning states was initially diagonal compared to the electrode direction, allowing fine control over the shape of the topological defect line.
  • The application of an A.C. voltage V triggered dynamic growth of the topological defect line and movement of the particle in a positive direction when V > Vc, or contraction of the topological defect line growth and movement of the particle in a negative direction when V < Vc; so we referred to Vc as the critical stabilising voltage. Hence the symmetry breaking in the system enabled voltage controlled microparticle movement in either a positive or negative direction within the layer and perpendicular to the resultant electric field direction.
  • We always looked at our device with the planar alignment side at the bottom. We did not observe sedimentation because our particle surfaces were treated to give perpendicular (homeotropic) molecular surface orientation. Therefore elastic levitation opposed the tendency for sedimentation.
  • There are two further observations that are not reported in the paper. The critical stabilising voltage and velocity range of domain wall and micro-particle movement can be altered by varying the thickness of the layer. However, the exact shape of the domain wall did not have a significant effect on the growth velocity.
  • Higher voltages, applied for significant amount of time, can be used to create alternating domain walls across the entire active area of the device. This will be the subject of another follow on paper.

Citation to the paper: Electrically controlled topological micro cargo transportation, A. S. Bhadwal, N. J. Mottram, A. Saxena, I. C. Sage, and C. V. Brown, Soft Matter, 16, 2961–2970 (2020). DOI: 10.1039/c9sm01956a.

To read the full article click here!

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at the Department of Materials, Loughborough University, UK.

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We are very pleased to welcome Professor Amy Shen to the Soft Matter Editorial Board. Read more to learn all about Amy!

Amy ShenAmy Shen is a professor in Micro/Bio/Nanofluidics Unit at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University in Japan. Her research is focused on microfluidics, rheology, and self-assembly, with applications in nanotechnology and biotechnology. She received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award in 2003 and the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award in 2007. Amy was also a Fulbright Scholar in 2013. More recently, she gave the 2019 Bergveld lecture at the University of Twente, Netherlands. She is an associate editor for Micromachines, Biomedical Microdevices, and belongs to the editorial advisory boards of VIEW and Physics of Fluids. Amy is also a Series Editor for the RSC Soft Matter book series.

Learn more about Amy by reading some of her research articles below!

Flow of wormlike micellar solutions around microfluidic cylinders with high aspect ratio and low blockage ratio
Simon J. Haward, Naoyuki Kitajima, Kazumi Toda-Peters, Tsutomu Takahashi and Amy Q. Shen 
Soft Matter, 2019,15, 1927-1941

Evaporation and morphological patterns of bi-dispersed colloidal droplets on hydrophilic and hydrophobic surfaces
R. Iqbal, B. Majhy, Amy Q. Shen and A. K. Sen  
Soft Matter, 2018,14, 9901-9909

Temperature controlled tensiometry using droplet microfluidics
Doojin Lee, Cifeng Fang, Aniket S. Ravan, Gerald G. Fullerc and Amy Q. Shen  
Lab Chip, 2017,17, 717-726

All these articles are currently FREE to read until the 15th May!

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Outstanding Reviewers for Soft Matter in 2019

We would like to highlight the Outstanding Reviewers for Soft Matter in 2019, as selected by the editorial team, for their significant contribution to the journal. The reviewers have been chosen based on the number, timeliness and quality of the reports completed over the last 12 months.

We would like to say a big thank you to those individuals listed here as well as to all of the reviewers that have supported the journal. Each Outstanding Reviewer will receive a certificate to give recognition for their significant contribution.

Dr Guilhem Baeza, INSA Lyon, ORCID: 0000-0002-5142-9670

Dr Philippe Coussot, Université Paris-Est, ORCID: 0000-0003-3980-0825

Dr Gerhard Gompper, Forschungszentrum Jülich, ORCID: 0000-0002-8904-0986

Prof. Lingxiang Jiang, Jinan University, ORCID: 0000-0001-5848-3904

Prof. Kaiqiang Liu, Shaanxi Normal University, ORCID: 0000-0001-7069-566X

Dr Yimin Luo, University of Delaware, ORCID: 0000-0002-9627-8722

Dr Davide Michieletto, University of Edinburgh, ORCID: 0000-0003-2186-6869

Prof. Yilin Wang, Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy Sciences, ORCID: 0000-0002-8455-390X

Prof. Xuehai Yan, Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ORCID: 0000-0002-0890-0340

Dr Li Zhang, Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ORCID: 0000-0001-8525-4509

We would also like to thank the Soft Matter board and the soft matter community for their continued support of the journal, as authors, reviewers and readers.

 

If you would like to become a reviewer for our journal, just email us with details of your research interests and an up-to-date CV or résumé.  You can find more details in our author and reviewer resource centre.

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Hot article: Active binary mixtures of fast and slow hard spheres

The term active matter might refer to something quite extraordinary such as, for example, dark matter. But what if I told you that such a term is used to describe very mundane things, such as flocks of birds or schools of fish? Illustration of active matterActive matter systems are composed of self-propelled elements and characterised by complex behaviours. Recently, the interest in active soft matter systems has grown significantly, with bacterial swarms and self-propelled particles being the two main foci of work in the area.

In this publication the authors are particularly interested in the less explored case in which two active components – faster and slower particles – are mixed. This would correspond, for example, to a mixture of bacteria with different speeds; or, in the macroscopic world, a scenario where zebras are being hunted by lions. They carry out Brownian dynamics simulations adapted to active matter, to find out that a segregation into condensed and gas-like phases, each composed of both fast and slow particles, takes place in such systems. Moreover, the composition of the condensed phase is highly dependent on the difference of activity between the two components. When the difference in speed between fast and slow particles is significant, the core of the condensed phase is composed of slow particles and the fast particles remain in the outer shell. If the speed is similar, then fast particles can be found as well as slow particles in the core of the condensed phase. The insights presented in this work are valuable to understand further multicomponent active matter already present in Nature or to engineer new active systems and harness the potential of their complex behaviour for diverse applications.

Comments from the authors:

  • Multicomponent active matter composed of mixtures of particles with distinct active driving forces remains largely unexplored
  • Active matter mixtures of fast and slow self-propelled colloids (Active Brownian Particles), is a useful way to investigate what quantities (if any) equilibrate in an active system
  • The behaviour of an active material can be tuned by the introduction of additional distinct active species
  • For binary active/active mixtures, a concentration weighted average of the activities of each species controls motility-induced phase separation (MIPS)
  • For slow/fast activity ratio near 0, and low fast particle activity, particle participation in the dense phase is significantly affected due to mixing
  • For slow/fast activity ratio near 1, and high fast particle activity, each species participates in the dense phase as if it were a monodisperse system
  • Theoretical approaches for multi-component active mixtures will provide progress towards an equation of state for active matter

Citation to the paper: Heterogeneous versus homogeneous crystal nucleation of hard spheres, Soft Matter, 2020, 16, 1967-978, DOI: 10.1039/c9sm01799b

To read the full article click here!

Did you know that Soft Matter has an Active Matter themed collection? Click here to check out more papers!

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at the Department of Materials, Loughborough University, UK.

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2020 Soft Matter Lectureship awarded to Valeria Garbin

It is with great pleasure that we announce Dr Valeria Garbin (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) as the recipient of the 2020 Soft Matter Lectureship.

Valeria GarbinValeria Garbin studied Physics at the University of Padua and received her PhD from the University of Trieste in Italy. She was a Rubicon fellowship in the Physics of Fluids group at the University of Twente, and a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, before starting her research group at Imperial College London in 2012. She joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Delft University of Technology in 2019.

Her current research focuses on soft materials under flow and deformation, particularly the extreme deformation conditions of cavitation, which are central to biomedical ultrasound and bioprocessing; and of processing flows used to create advanced materials and formulated products.

Valeria has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant, was the 2018 recipient of the McBain medal (RSC/SCI), and has been featured in “100 Women of Chemistry” by the RSC.

Learn more about Valeria’s research by reading her papers in Soft Matter:

Polymer nanocomposite capsules formed by droplet extraction: spontaneous stratification and tailored dissolution
Christiana E. Udoh, Valeria Garbin and João T. Cabral
Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 5287-5295

High-frequency linear rheology of hydrogels probed by ultrasound-driven microbubble dynamics
Akaki Jamburidze, Marco De Corato, Axel Huerre, Angelo Pommella and Valeria Garbin
Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 3946-3953

Shape oscillations of particle-coated bubbles and directional particle expulsion
Vincent Poulichet, Axel Huerre and Valeria Garbin
Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 125-133

Surface waves on a soft viscoelastic layer produced by an oscillating microbubble
Marc Tinguely, Matthew G. Hennessy, Angelo Pommella, Omar K. Matar and Valeria Garbin
Soft Matter, 2016, 12, 4247-4256

Near field capillary repulsion
Lu Yao, Lorenzo Botto, Marcello Cavallaro, Jr, Blake J. Bleier, Valeria Garbin and Kathleen J. Stebe
Soft Matter, 2013, 9, 779-786

These articles are free to read until 31 March 2020.

Thank you to everyone who nominated a candidate for the Lectureship; we received many excellent nominations, and the Editorial Board had a difficult task in choosing between some outstanding candidates.

Please join us in congratulating Valeria on winning this award!

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We are very pleased to welcome Professor Ewa Górecka to the Soft Matter Editorial Board. Read more to learn all about Ewa!

Ewa GoreckaEwa Gorecka is a professor at the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Warsaw. Her research focuses on the study of liquid crystals, gels and nanoparticles using various X-ray diffraction and microscopic methods to study the structure of these materials at the nanoscale. She is also interested in the mechanisms of spontaneous chiral symmetry breaking in soft matter. Her latest publications concern the use of X-ray diffraction methods to solve the structure of chiral phases with limited positional order.

Learn more about Ewa by reading some of her research articles below!

 

Calamitic and discotic liquid crystalline phases for mesogens with triangular cores
Jadwiga Szydłowska, Adam Krówczyński, Ewa Górecka and Damian Pociecha
Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 7195-7202

Molecular curvature, specific intermolecular interactions and the twist-bend nematic phase: the synthesis and characterisation of the 1-(4-cyanobiphenyl-4′-yl)-6-(4-alkylanilinebenzylidene-4′-oxy)hexanes (CB6O.m)
Rebecca Walker, Damian Pociecha, Grant J. Strachan, John M. D. Storey, Ewa Gorecka and Corrie T. Imrie
Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 3188-3197

Organic nanotubes created from mesogenic derivatives
Vladimíra Novotná, Věra Hamplová, Lubor Lejček, Damian Pociecha, Martin Cigl, Ladislav Fekete, Milada Glogarová, Lucie Bednárová, Pawel W. Majewski and Ewa Gorecka
Nanoscale Adv., 2019, 1, 2835-2839

All these articles are currently FREE to read until the 31st March 2020!

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Hot article: Heterogeneous versus homogeneous crystal nucleation of hard spheres

Crystallization processes from a liquid are very present in our life, for example the freezing of water and formation of ice crystals. In such processes, building blocks suspended in a fluid arrange themselves to form a crystal. Espinosa et al. focus on the case where these building blocks are hard spherical particles.

In a real-life situation, the liquid will normally be confined within certain walls – e.g. inside a container or on top of a surface. Therefore, some of the particles will interact with the walls and might Graphical abstract.form a small crystal (or nucleus) at its surface – the so-called heterogeneous nucleation. This is more favourable than generating a crystal in the bulk of the liquid (homogeneous nucleation), as it reduces the surface area of the crystal and thus the energy required to form it. In this work, the authors study the competition between both nucleation mechanisms. They carry out molecular dynamics simulations to model heterogeneous nucleation processes and compare with existing homogeneous nucleation numerical data. This enables them to identify two regimes depending on the density of the system, and in each of them a different nucleation mechanism is prevalent. When the number of particles in the liquid is not too high (less than 53% in volume), heterogeneous nucleation prevails. But above that threshold homogeneous nucleation takes over.

This study not only provides further insights into the competition between nucleation mechanisms; the expected prevalence of heterogeneous nucleation in experimental conditions could be part of the explanation as to why experimental and modelling results in the field have often discrepancies.

Comments from the authors:
• Above a certain density, a fluid composed hard spheres arranged in a disordered fashion is less stable than a crystal where the spheres are packed as cannon balls.
• The first step of the transformation into the crystal is the emergence of crystal embryos (or nuclei) in the fluid.
• Crystal nuclei may appear in the fluid bulk (homogeneous nucleation) or on the walls of the cell containing the fluid (heterogeneous nucleation).
• Whereas walls are always present in experiments, simulations effectively eliminate them with a trick called “periodic boundary conditions” by which a sphere leaving the simulation box on one side enters from the opposite side like ghosts in the Pacman game.
• The simultaneous appearance of homogeneous and heterogeneous nuclei makes it difficult to measure homogeneous nucleation rates in experiments.
• The balance between homogeneous and heterogeneous nucleation depends on the size and the shape of the container and on the fluid density.
• Heterogeneous nucleation prevails in fluids where particles occupy less than ~ 54 per cent of the space in cells typically used in experiments.
• The dominance of heterogeneous nucleation could explain long-standing discrepancies between experimental measurements and simulation estimates of the homogeneous nucleation rate.
• A strategy based on coating the cells with spheres arranged in a fluid fashion could potentially eliminate heterogeneous nucleation in experiments.

Citation to the paper: Heterogeneous versus homogeneous crystal nucleation of hard spheres, Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 9625-9631, DOI: 10.1039/C9SM01142K
To read the full article click here!

About the web writer

Dr Ignacio Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at the Department of Materials, Loughborough University, UK.

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