NSF grants awarded for soft matter research

Two recent grants from the National Science Foundation will support soft matter research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Soft matter is a branch of materials science with numerous practical applications, from organic solar cells, construction and packaging materials to tissue implants, cancer therapy and new classes of drugs. The grants will foster collaboration among UNC departments and with other universities in the Triangle and beyond.

A three-year, $3.18 million award will create a Materials Interdisciplinary Research Team, led by UNC chemistry professor Sergei Sheiko and his colleagues Valerie Ashby, Joseph DeSimone, Michael Rubinstein, and Edward Samulski, along with mathematics professor Gregory Forest. Researchers from Duke and Carnegie Mellon universities will also be involved in this center.

Michael Rubinstein

The UNC chemistry department is also part of the recently announced six-year, $13.6 million Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, with professor Michael Rubinstein leading development of a new theory of polymer self-assembly. Richard Superfine, professor in the department of physics and astronomy, will also be a part of that effort.

The discipline of soft matter is a relatively new, but a rapidly growing area of research spanning diverse fields, from physics, chemistry and biology to applied materials science and engineering. In general terms, soft matter includes states of matter such as foams, gels, polymers and emulsions. Soft matter is created by combining smaller species, for example, DNA strands, nanoparticles and water molecules to form larger structures that have novel properties.

“These grants are a culmination of the long-standing commitment by UNC to promote interdisciplinary research programs in materials science and other fields,” said Matthew Redinbo, chair of the chemistry department.

Click here for more details.