|GENERAL FRAMEWORK OF RESEARCH
Glass-forming liquids and concentrated solutions, blends and melts of polymers in themselves, constitute highly complex systems. Molecular engineering by controlled synthesis at the nano-scale produces additional complexity by branching and inclusion of block copolymer structure. The addition of nano-charges to polymeric materials modifies drastically their properties. New nano-confinement effects emerge in multi-component polymer and soft matter systems. At the interface between biology and polymer & soft matter sciences, novel and fascinating areas of research are emerging. The development of new materials of increasing complexity based on polymers and soft matter, poses challenging problems to basic sciences. The relationship between structure and dynamics at different length and time scales, the understanding of the interplay of geometry and topology, the characterization of the interfacial features and the dynamics at the interfacial level, the new confinement effects, the way local friction arises in crowed environments that are chemically heterogeneous, are, among others, fundamental problems but of utmost importance for the future development of novel technologies based on such materials. A combination of both, experimental and theoretical & simulation efforts is essential to progress in this interdisciplinary area.
Glass-forming Systems; Complex Liquids; Polymers; Soft Matter; Structural Properties; Dynamical Properties; Relaxation Processes; Molecular Motions; Relaxation Techniques; X-rays Scattering; Neutron Scattering; Dielectric Spectroscopy; Polymer Rheology; Computer simulations; Molecular Dynamics Simulation; Coarse Grained Simulations.
The general scientific objective of the group is to achieve a fundamental understanding of the interplay between structure and dynamics at different length and time scales (micro, nano, meso, macro) in systems of increasing complexity based on glass-forming liquids, polymers and soft matter, in particular, multi-component, nano-structured and biopolymer materials. These materials exhibit complex dynamics and rheology and, in many cases, show hierarchical relaxations over many different timescales. This in turn affects the processing and properties of the final materials. In order to rationally design appropriate materials and processes for various technological applications, a rigorous knowledge based approach is needed. This is especially urgent in the face of current opportunities offered by tailored molecular engineering of polymers at the industrial scale and the proposed use of these materials in nano-structured composites for smart applications in devices, electronics and high performance applications.
On the other hand, from the point of view of training, the main goal is to provide young doctoral and post-doctoral researchers with the necessary interdisciplinary knowledge and experience in the field of soft materials properties - much needed through Europe – which will allow them to address some of the many scientific and technological challenges in the field.