My research is in the field of Soft Matter, the science of soft things (basically). If you want to know more about that, the wikipedia is a pretty good place to start reading.
The cornerstone of my research are so-called patchy particles. A patchy particle is a specific type of colloidal particle. Colloidal particles are small balls, of about 1 micrometers, so about 1/100th of the width of a hair. They are interesting to study because:
- They are small enough to experience thermal motion, meaning that they move around on their own.
- They are big enough to make them easy to study using simple methods like microscopy.
Using some tricks, you can make the colloidal particles attractive or repulsive towards each other. This causes the particles to self-assemble into certain structures, with properties ranging from gel-like to crystalline. By changing properties of the particles, like the attractiveness or size, you can change the properties of the materials they assemble into.
This raises an interesting question: if we get full control of the colloidal particle properties and assembly, can we control the properties of the material they assemble into? In my PhD project, we try to control the particle assembly by using particles with very specific attractive spots, so called ‘patchy particles’. Patchy particles are comparable to lego blocks: two colloids will fit together, but only in certain ways. By choosing the placement and number of attractive spots carefully, we try to steer what the particles will assemble into.
The patchy particles I use are made by our collaborators in New York. They make the particles, I try to assemble them into interesting stuff. The things I build are both of fundamental scientic interest, and can help in the developement of (for instance) future smart materials.
If you want to know more about specific projects, you can find a page for individual projects below.
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