The emerging field of soft matter research deals with the study of materials that exist between rigid solids and flowing liquids. Familiar examples include foams, gels, adhesives, lubricants, and many biological materials, such as blood or tissue. Soft matter plays an increasingly important role in commercial applications and new technologies, but behaves fundamentally differently from traditional, relatively well understood solids and liquids. The goal of current soft matter research is to understand and control the molecular scale structure of soft matter in order to engineer new classes of materials. Georgetown’s Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology, or I(SM)2, launched as the result of $6.9 Million construction grant from NIST, serves to catalyze the development of fundamental principles and practical measurement tools that can be applied to soft matter synthesis and precision measurement and characterization (metrology).
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- Precision tools and techniques for measuring and manipulating the microstructure of complex materials under controlled conditions
- Micro- and nano-scale probes for measuring the mechanical properties of microscopic quantities of soft matter to probe connections among microstructure, mechanical properties, and processing conditions.
- Synthesis and characterization of nanoparticle dispersions, including the dynamics of self-assembly of molecular precursors and novel approaches to polymerization.
- Synthesis and characterization of self-assembled fibrillar networks, investigations of the self-assembly processes under induced stress, such as that from light, shear, or magnetic fields.
- Methods and tools to guide and characterize interactions between cells and engineered biocompatible environments. Control over structural, mechanical and biochemical conditions to allow for a better understanding of cell function in physiologically relevant conditions and control of cell function through materials engineering.
Collaboration and Dissemination
The I(SM)2 serves to catalyze regional and national collaborations and disseminate tools and principles of soft matter synthesis, protocols for processing, and metrology. This Institute supports the regional conference series, The Mid-Atlantic Soft Matter (MASM) Workshops. MASM was established in 2007 by Georgetown scientists to encourage inter-institution collaboration, and provides an effective venue for promoting interaction among soft matter researchers from academic, industrial and national laboratories in the Mid-Atlantic region. The workshops are informal and structured to maximize participation, breadth, and involvement of young researchers.