Soft Matter is very pleased to be sponsoring InterPore2021

InterPore2021 banner, detailing the meeting dates

 

Soft Matter is very pleased to be sponsoring InterPore2021! Register now for fascinating lectures, engage with fellow researchers from across the globe and discover cutting-edge exploration of porous media.

 

This year’s conference will include both oral and poster (+pitch) presentations. The online platform will allow you to join a world-class conference from your own home or office and at the convenience of your own schedule. Pre-recorded presentations will be available for viewing beginning nine days prior to the conference and for up to two weeks after the conference. Presenters will give a 10-minute presentation and answer questions during live Q&A sessions. All lectures will be recorded and available for viewing the day after each session and after the conference so that you don’t miss a thing – no matter where you are. Learn more about the conference and register here: https://events.interpore.org/event/25/

 

Topics and applications

  • Transport phenomena
  • Swelling and shrinking porous media
  • Multiphysics-multiphase flow
  • Reservoir engineering
  • Soil Mechanics and Engineering
  • Geothermal energy
  • CO2 sequestration
  • Constitutive modeling
  • Wave propagation
  • Energy Storage
  • Biotechnology
  • Biofilms
  • Thin and nanoscale poromechanics
  • Fuel cells and batteries
  • Food
  • Paper and textiles
  • Filters, foams, membranes
  • Fibers and composites
  • Ceramics and constructions materials
  • Other porous media applications
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Hot article: How a water drop removes a particle from a hydrophobic surface

Have you ever wished for windows that clean themselves? One of the approaches to design such windows is to make them hydrophobic. On a hydrophobic surface, rain droplets will be more likely to roll over – taking the dirt particles with them. However, this process is not fully understood yet. Questions such as what happens when dirt and droplet collide, and what are the forces involved do not have a complete answer yet. Addressing such problems is of high importance both from a fundamental and applied point of view.

In this publication, the authors used an inverted confocal microscope to study the removal of dirt particles by a water drop deposited on a hydrophobic surface. The drop was held at a fixed position by a blade, while a dirt particle was moved at constant speed towards the drop. This setup allowed them to visualise the drop-particle collision, and measure the force acting on the drop during the collision, enabling the authors to assess the validity of existing models. The insights presented in the article contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved, paving the way towards a future enhancement of self-cleaning surfaces.

Comments from the authors:

  • When a drop collides with a particle on a surface, the drop successfully displaces the particle when the speed of the collision is low. Beyond a certain speed, the particle moves through the drop and leaves at its rear side.
  • The force responsible for displacing the particle is the surface tension (or capillary force), which acts when the particle is at the drop’s interface. Particles experience a negligible viscous force when inside a water drop, because of the low viscosity of water. That is, the force due to the flow inside the drop is insufficient to displace the particle.
  • The particle is displaced by the drop if the maximum capillary force that the drop can exert on the particle exceeds the resistive force that needs to be overcome to displace the particle over the surface.
  • The maximum capillary force depends on the material properties of the liquid and of the particle, as well as how the particle moves (whether it rolls or slides).
  • We developed a model which predicts that a rolling particle experiences a lower maximum capillary force than a sliding one.
  • We observed that the particle rolled when it was pulled by the drop. There are two main contributions to the resistive force experienced by a rolling particle: one from the surface and the other from the drop. The first contribution is due to viscoelastic dissipation in the PDMS surface and due to intermolecular forces between the particle and the surface. The second contribution is due to contact angle hysteresis as the particle rolls at the drop-air interface.
  • To maximise the chance of removing a particle from a surface using water drops, the resistive force experienced by the particle should be minimised. This can be achieved by lubricating the surface, or by coating it with a superhydrophobic material.

Citation to the paper: How a water drop removes a particle from a hydrophobic surface, Abhinav Naga, Anke Kaltbeitzel, William S. Y. Wong, Lukas Hauer, Hans-Jurgen Butt and Doris Vollmer. Soft Matter, 2021, 17, 1746. DOI: 10.1039/d0sm01925a.

To read the full article click here!

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Materials Science at Loughborough University, UK.

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Soft Matter: Young Investigators Meeting

At the beginning of December, the Soft Matter: Young Investigators Meeting was held (virtually); organised for the soft matter community in India by Susmita Dash, Aloke Kumar, Basavaraja Gurappa and Dillip Satapathy. Soft Matter Associate Editor Sanat Kumar gave a keynote talk on how problem solving has defined his career and provided valuable insights for young researchers. The meeting included a poster session with prizes sponsored by Soft Matter.

We are pleased to announce below the winners of the poster session:

Merin Jose – Evaporative self-assembly of binary mixture of soft colloids

G Manikandan- Rapid Moisture Responsive Silk Fibroin Actuators

Anuj Chhabram – Electrostatic interactions of the Polyelectrolyte polymers attached to the spherical surface

Congratulations, from all of us at Soft Matter!

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Hot article: Holographic immunoassays – direct detection of antibodies binding to colloidal spheres

Although probably not for the right reasons, in 2020 we have become fully familiarized with the detection of virus antibodies. One of the most widespread methods is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which generates billions of copies of any virus RNA present in the sample to reach enough antibody concentration to be detected. However, tests such as PCR require the use of reagents which are not necessarily cheap and an extra step to increase the concentration of the analyte to be able to detect it.

Image describing the work

In this publication, the authors propose an antibody detection method that does not require reagents and reduces the testing time. They calculate the concentration of antibodies by measuring very precisely the size of micrometric particles in the sample through the analysis of their holograms.  The change in size with respect to the original particle is attributed to the binding of antibodies to them. In addition to providing information on the antibody concentration, this technique can also provide insights into their binding mechanism to the surface of the particles – which are treated with proteins beforehand. Therefore, the replacement of these proteins for others could make these holographic assays targeted for specific diseases.

Comments from the authors:

  • Holographic immunoassays detect antibodies by watching them bind to the surfaces of specially functionalized colloidal spheres using holographic video microscopy.
  • A hologram of a micrometer-scale colloidal sphere can be analyzed with the Lorenz-Mie theory of light scattering to measure the sphere’s diameter with nanometer precision.
  • Comparing populations of spheres before and after incubating with a sample reveals a shift in the mean diameter that can be used to measure the concentration of the target analyte.
  • Direct detection through holographic analysis eliminates reagents and processing required for standard bead-based assays, and therefore reduces the cost, complexity and time for each test.
  • 20 minute measurements can detect the antibody IgG at concentrations as low as 10 μg/mL and IgM as low as 1 μg/mL.
  • Specialized tests for antibodies and virus particles can be programmed rapidly and cheaply by suitably functionalizing the colloidal test beads.

Citation to the paper: Holographic immunoassays – direct detection of antibodies binding to colloidal spheres, Kaitlynn Snyder, Rushna Quddus, Andrew D. Hollingsworth, Kent Kirshenbaumb and David G. Grier. Soft Matter, 2020. DOI: 10.1039/d0sm01351j.

To read the full article click here!

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Materials Science at Loughborough University, UK.

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We are very pleased to welcome Professor Zhihong Nie as an Associate Editor for Soft Matter. Read more to learn all about Zhihong!

Profile picture of Zhihong NieZhihong Nie is a Professor in the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Engineering of Polymers and Department of Macromolecular Science at Fudan University, China. Prior to this position, he was a tenured faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. His current research focuses on molecular and nanoparticle self-assembly, biomedical imaging and delivery, programmable soft materials, and microfluidics. He has received various awards including the NSF CAREER Award and the 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award. Read more on his group webpage.

Zhihong has given his insight and thoughts on the future of the soft materials field:

The field of soft matter is still relatively young and many problems remain open. Unlike hard matter, soft matter is highly heterogeneous, dynamic and complex in its structure. Such characteristics make soft matter’s problems challenging to tackle. Recent advances in characterization tools and new technologies are expected to drastically accelerate the understanding, development and application of soft matter.”

“We live in a world where soft matter is ubiquitous. For realizing a sustainable society, more and more hard and heavy materials will be replaced by soft and light materials. More and more future technologies will be built on soft matter. It is fair to say that we are entering a new era of soft matter that will reshape our world.

 

Editor’s choice: Zhihong’s favourite Soft Matter articles

Here are four publications that Zhihong has chosen as his favourite recent articles in Soft Matter.

Graphical abstract for "Molecular understanding for large deformations of soft bottlebrush polymer networks". Containing an illustration of bottlebrush polymer networks and a graph of yield strain v shear modulusMolecular understanding for large deformations of soft bottlebrush polymer networks
Li-Heng Cai
Soft Matter, 2020, 16, 6259-6264
From one our 2021 Soft Matter Emerging Investigators

 

 

 

Graphical abstract image for "3D aggregation of cells in packed microgel media". Contains cartoon and microscope images of single cells aggregating, clusters coalescing and clusters creating networks3D aggregation of cells in packed microgel media
Cameron D. Morley, Jesse Tordoff, Christopher S. O’Bryan, Ron Weiss and Thomas E. Angelini
Soft Matter, 2020, 16, 6572-6581
From our Liquid Composites themed collection

 

 

Graphical abstract for "Collective motion of chiral Brownian particles controlled by a circularly-polarized laser beam". Contains no rotation and collective rotation microscopy images and graphs of particles using laser beam

Collective motion of chiral Brownian particles controlled by a circularly-polarized laser beam
Raúl Josué Hernández, Francisco J. Sevilla, Alfredo Mazzulla, Pasquale Pagliusi, Nicola Pellizzid and Gabriella Cipparrone
Soft Matter, 2020, 16, 7704-7714

 

 

 

 

Graphical abstract for "Finger directed surface charges for local droplet motion". Containing droplet moving images in response to finger position and graphs of horizontal position and velocity against timeFinger directed surface charges for local droplet motion
Ning Li, Cunlong Yu, Zhichao Dong and Lei Jiang
Soft Matter, 2020, DOI: 10.1039/d0sm01073a

 

 

 

 

All these articles are currently FREE to read until 19th November 2020!

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Open for Nominations: 2021 Soft Matter Lectureship

Do you know an early-career researcher who deserves recognition for their contribution to the soft matter field?

Now is your chance to put them forward for the accolade they deserve!

Soft Matter is pleased to announce that nominations are now being accepted for its 2021 Lectureship award. This annual award was established in 2009 to honour an early-stage career scientist who has made a significant contribution to the soft matter field.

The recipient of the award will be asked to present a lecture at an international conference in 2021, where they will also be presented with the award. The Soft Matter Editorial Office will provide £1000 financial support to the recipient for travel and accommodation costs.

The recipient will also be asked to contribute a research article to the journal and will have their work showcased free of charge on the front cover of the issue in which their article is published. The article would be subject to the normal peer review standards of the journal.

Previous winners

2020 – Valeria Garbin, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

2019 – Timothy J White, University of Colorado, USA

2018 – Susan Perkin, University of Oxford, UK

2017 – Daeyeon Lee, University of Pennsylvania, USA

2016 – Damien Baigl, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France

2015 – Lucio Isa, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

2014 – Eric Dufresne, Yale University, USA

2013 – Eric Furst, University of Delaware, USA

2012 – Patrick Doyle, MIT, USA

2011 – Michael J. Solomon, University of Michigan, USA

2010 – Bartosz Grzybowski, UNIST, Republic of Korea

2009 – Emanuela Zaccarelli, University of Rome, Italy

Eligibility

To be eligible for the lectureship, candidates should meet the following criteria:

  • Be an independent researcher, having completed PhD and postdoctoral studies
  • Be actively pursuing research within the soft matter field, and have made a significant contribution to the field
  • Be at an early stage of their independent career (this should be within 12 years of attaining their doctorate or equivalent degree, but appropriate consideration will be given to those who have taken a career break or followed an alternative study path)

Although the Soft Matter Lectureship doesn’t explicitly reward support of or contributions to the journal, candidates with a history of publishing or reviewing for the journal would be more likely to be considered favourably.

Selection

  • All eligible nominated candidates will be assessed by a shortlisting panel, made up of members of the Soft Matter Advisory Board and a previous lectureship winner.
  • The shortlisting panel will consider the nomination form and letter of recommendation, as well as the three recent research articles highlighted in the nomination form for consideration.
  • Shortlisted candidates will be further assessed by the Soft Matter Editorial Board, and a winner will be selected based on an anonymous poll.
  • Selection is not based simply on quantitative measures. Consideration will be given to all information provided in the letter of recommendation and nomination form, including research achievements and originality, contributions to the soft matter community, innovation, collaborations and teamwork, publication history, and engagement with Soft Matter.

Nominations

Nominations must be made via email to softmatter-rsc@rsc.org, and include the following:

  • A brief letter of recommendation (1 page maximum length)
  • A complete nomination form (includes list of the candidate’s relevant publications or recent work, 3 research articles to be considered during the shortlisting process, candidate’s scientific CV, and full contact details)

Please note:

  • Nominations from students and self-nomination is not permitted.
  • The nominee must be aware that he/she has been nominated for this lectureship.
  • As part of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we have a responsibility to promote inclusivity and accessibility in order to improve diversity. Where possible, we encourage each nominator to consider nominating candidates of all genders, races, and backgrounds. Please see the RSC’s approach to Inclusion and Diversity.
  • Candidates outside of the stated eligibility criteria may still be considered.

 

Nominations deadline: 30th November 2020

 

Download nomination form here

 

 

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Hot article: Step-wise linking of vesicles by combining reversible and irreversible linkers – towards total control on vesicle aggregate sizes

Lipid bilayers are membranes consisting of two layers of lipid molecules. They have attracted an enormous interest from the research community, as they form the external envelope of cells. In three dimensions, these lipid bilayers can form vesicles, and such systems are currently used as models for many studies of cell signalling. In addition, they can be loaded with chemicals and used as drug delivery carriers. The performance of a drug delivery system formed by vesicles relies on their stability or, in other words, how much they tend to aggregate and in what manner. A system of vesicles where all of them aggregate into a very large cluster before they are even injected in the body will be of no use as it will not reach its target. On the other hand, if the vesicles all remain apart from each other indefinitely the dose applied in the target area might not be large enough to be effective.

 

Schematic representation of the individual vesicles with added C18-pNIPAm and added streptavidin before the temperature cycle.

In this publication, the authors design a vesicle system that enables full control over the aggregation of vesicles.  A combination of reversible and irreversible linkers is employed to form the vesicle aggregates, and such combination allows control of their size by setting the appropriate temperature program. The authors envisage that their method will be a useful tool for investigating membrane fusion phenomena or inter-membrane interactions, which are of high relevance in biological processes.

Comments from the authors:

  • We found that optimal conditions ​for self-limiting aggregation (defined in the text) are found when the lateral linker diffusion time is much shorter compared to the vesicle collision time. Experimentation at low vesicle concentration is therefore crucial/key.
  • Continued aggregation takes place at high temperatures (>32 degrees​ C) at high fractions of biotinylated lipids in combination with a high concentration of streptavidin. This aggregation can be stopped by lowering the temperature (C18-pNIPAm swells and prevents further aggregation). Rather than self-limiting aggregation, we have then obtained an aggregation start and stop mechanism using the C18-pNIPAm linker.
  • Optimizing the protocol for C18-pNIPAm synthesis, and varying the length of the pNIPAm polymer could further improve the control on final aggregation sizes.
  • Additionally, further control on the aggregation could be obtained varying the temperature steps. For temperature steps lower than 40 degrees​ C (but >32 degrees C), aggregation of vesicles is slower.
  • This work not only showcases the effect of combining biotin/streptavidin and C18-pNIPAm, but can also serves as a proof of principle for vesicle aggregation with other combinations of linkers, of which one of the linkers is reversible.

Citation to the paper: Step-wise linking of vesicles by combining reversible and irreversible linkers – towards total control on vesicle aggregate sizes, N. de Lange, F. A. M. Leermakers, and J. M. Kleijn. Soft Matter, 2020,16, 6773. DOI: 10.1039/D0SM00995D.

To read the full article click here!

About the web writer

Dr Nacho Martin-Fabiani (@FabianiNacho) is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Materials Science at Loughborough University, UK.

 

 

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We are very pleased to welcome Dr Emanuela Zaccarelli as an Associate Editor for Soft Matter. Read more to learn all about Emanuela!

Emanuela Zaccarelli profile pictureEmanuela Zaccarelli has served on the Soft Matter Editorial Board for three years prior to becoming an Associate Editor for the journal, and is currently a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Complex Systems of the Italian National Research Council (CNR), based at the Physics Department of the Sapienza University of Rome. After graduating in Physics at the same University in 1999, she obtained a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University College of Dublin, Ireland in 2002.

Emanuela’s main research interests are on phase behaviour and dynamic arrest of complex fluids, including colloids with depletion interactions, star polymers, microgels, clays and patchy particles. She mainly uses theory and computer simulations, often in connection with experimental work. She was the first recipient of the Soft Matter Lectureship in 2009 for her studies on gels and glasses in colloidal suspensions. In 2015 she was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to model the effective interactions of microgel particles. She is among the initiators of the “Italian Soft Days” series of meetings, which are aimed to gather together soft matter scientists working in Italy to favour collaboration and discussions among them.

 

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

Numerical modelling of non-ionic microgels: an overview
Lorenzo Rovigatti, Nicoletta Gnan, Letizia Tavagnacco, Angel J. Moreno and Emanuela Zaccarelli
Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 1108-1119

Numerical insights on ionic microgels: structure and swelling behaviour
Giovanni Del Monte, Andrea Ninarello, Fabrizio Camerin, Lorenzo Rovigatti, Nicoletta Gnan and Emanuela Zaccarelli
Soft Matter, 2019, 15, 8113-8128

Effective potentials induced by self-assembly of patchy particles
Nicolás Ariel García, Nicoletta Gnan and Emanuela Zaccarelli
Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 6051-6058

 

All these articles are currently FREE to read until 13th October 2020!

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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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