CSD Soft Materials Group
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Selected Research and Development Projects

R&D Areas:

Research in the Soft Materials Group is focused primarily on experimental studies of Dynamics of Soft Materials and Molecular Biophysics. We are developing fundamental understanding of physical and chemical phenomena in Soft Matter and applying this knowledge to design of novel materials and technologies for different applications from energy to bio-medical fileds. Research in our group can be divided on five major topics:

1.  Glass Transition and Polymer Dynamics;
2.  Nano-composite and Nano-structured Materials;
3.  Dynamics of Biological Macromolecules;
4.  Polymers and Ionic Liquids for Electrical Energy Storage Applications, and
5.  Nano-optics and Plasmonics.



1. Glass Transition and Polymer Dynamics

          Glass Transition and Polymer dynamics

Molecular motion is the key to many macroscopic properties of soft materials (polymers, colloids, glass-forming and biological systems, etc.). The main goal of our studies in this direction is fundamental understanding of molecular motions and their relationship to macroscopic properties of polymers and other soft materials. Among the major topics, we study the glass transition phenomenon, viscoelastic and mechanical properties, electrical conductivity, influence of chemical structure of the molecules on the dynamics and macroscopic properties of the materials. We study dynamics using various experimental techniques, including light and neutron scattering and dielectric spectroscopy.


Nano-composite and Nano-structured Materials2. Nano-composite and Nano-structured Materials

Addition of small nano-particles to polymers can tremendously affect their properties. We study the influence of nano-fillers (carbon nano-tubes, silica and polymeric particles, graphene) on mechanical and electrical properties of polymers, their dynamics and glass transition. We also study how confinement to small volume (various nanostructures) affects mechanical properties and dynamics of the materials. We analyze various kinds of nano-structures, including polymeric and biological (e.g. viruses).




3. Dynamics of Biological Macromolecules

Dynamics of Biological Macromolecules Activity and function of biological systems are defined by their dynamics. Understanding the basic parameters that control molecular motions in biological systems, and understanding the relationship between molecular dynamics and biological functions are the main goals of our research in this direction. Among major topics, we also study role of solvents in protein dynamics, activity and stability and we are developing formulations for long-term preservation of biological molecules. We use neutron, light scattering and dielectric spectroscopy, and we actively collaborate with groups performing MD-simulations.



Polymers and Ionic Liquids for Electrical Energy Storage Applications4. Polymers and Ionic Liquids for Electrical Energy Storage Applications

This is a new research topic in our group. It is focused on fundamental understanding of ion transport in polymers and liquids with specific emphasis on solid polymer electrolytes and room temperature ionic liquids. The goal of this research is to develop electrolytes (solid, liquid, gels and/or composite materials) that will provide high ionic conductivity not only for Li, but also for multivalent ions, such as Mg and Al. They also should be stable in the required electrochemical window, and in many cases provide good mechanical properties.



5. Nano-optics and Plasmonics

Nano opticsWe are developing scanning nano-Raman spectroscopy based on the apertureless near-field optics. It employs gigantic local enhancement of electrical field of light by plasmonic (particular metallic) structures. We already achieved Raman imaging of semiconducting structures with spatial resolution ~20 nm, far beyond the diffraction limit of light. We are also developing plasmonic structures for molecular-level sensing based on surface-enhanced Raman scattering.

Soft Materials Group

Provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Chemical Sciences Division
Rev:    May 2012