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SoftComp e-Newsletter No. 2 - February 2019

Dear Members and Friends of SoftComp,

Mankind is currently facing enormous challenges: global warming and the pollution of the environment by microplastics, to name just two crucial ones. Building upon its key competences, SoftComp is well placed to contribute to their solution.

The optimization and efficient production of polymer solar cells could in the future provide carbon-free alternative energy production. Polyelectrolytes can help to improve batteries. The efficient and clean use of hydrocarbon fuels is already being investigated by SoftComp – think diesel-water-microemulsions.

Polymer materials must in future become more efficient, easier to recycle, or bio-degradable. Currently, a large fraction of plastic waste worldwide ends up as micro-plastics in the oceans. Car tyres – polymer-nanoparticle composites – degrade and significantly contribute to microplastic pollution.

New ideas from the SoftComp community can make a real difference on our journey towards a sustainable future.

Best regards,
Angela Wenzik & Gerhard Gompper
for the SoftComp Coordination, Management and Communication Team

Scientific News

Molecular Engineering of Novel All-DNA Lyotropic Liquid Crystal Phases

Polarized optical microscopy texture of a novel lyotropic liquid crystal phase formed by the self-organization of DNA nanoparticles. Copyright: authors of M. Salamonczyk et al., Nat.Commun. 7, 133358 (2016).
Researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Sapienza University of Rome propose that DNA can be a versatile building block for fabricating all-DNA particles with engineered shape and interaction potentials. These particles could serve as model systems for exploring unconventional bulk phase behaviour in diverse states of matter.

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Formation and Use of Globular Protein Aggregates

Negative-staining TEM image of ß–lg aggregates formed at pH 5.8. Reproduced with permission from J. M. Jung et al., Biomacromolecules 9, 2477 (2008). Copyright (2008) American Chemical Society.
Globular protein aggregates are used to texture aqueous systems either as gelling agents, viscosifiers or stabilizers of emulsions, e.g. in the food and cosmetics industries. Researchers from the University of Le Mans have studied their formation under various conditions.

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Non–Close-Packed Nanoparticle Arrays: Porous Materials with Novel Crystal Structures Assembled from Nanoparticles

Self-assembly of inorganic nanoparticles has been used to prepare hundreds of different colloidal crystals, but almost invariably with the restriction that the particles must be densely packed. A research team involving researchers from the Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE) and the University of Antwerp shows that non-close-packed nanoparticle arrays can be fabricated through the selective removal of one of two components comprising binary nanoparticle superlattices.

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Designer Emulsions

The soft materials and complex groups at the ETH Zurich and researchers from the KU Leuven have developed a generic and versatile method to create designer liquid-liquid interfaces, using transient double emulsions.

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Nanocomposite Capsules with Directional, Pulsed Nanoparticle Release

The precise spatio-temporal delivery of nanoparticles from polymeric capsules is required for applications ranging from medicine to materials science. Researchers from Imperial College London have demonstrated that microporosity and capsule morphology can be precisely controlled without resorting to complex synthetic routes.

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Personalia & Miscellaneous News

The SoftComp partner Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials (CIC biomaGUNE) has been recognized as a Maria de Maeztu Unit of Excellence by the State Research Agency of Spain. The Maria de Maeztu accreditation seeks to ack-nowledge excellent research centres that are counted among the best internationally in their respective fields of research. Being recognized as a María de Maeztu Unit of Excellence is the highest accolade of scientific excellence awarded in Spain.

Representatives of eight European research infrastructures have signed the Charter
of the League of advanced European Neutron Sources (LENS) at the International
Conference of Research Infrastructures, ICRI2018, in Vienna. The signing ceremony
marks the establishment of a new strategic consortium of European neutron source facilities with the aim, according to the charter, to “facilitate any form of discussion and decision making process that has the potential to strengthen European neutron science via enhanced collaboration among the facilities”. The SoftComp member Forschungs-zentrum Jülich is also a partner of one of the infrastructures involved, the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum in Garching, Germany.

Prof. Dr. Juan Colmenero (University of the Basque Country) has been awarded the 2017 Walter Hälg Prize. This is presented biannually by the European Neutron User Community (ENSA) to a European scientist for outstanding, coherent work in neutron scattering with a long-term impact on scientific and/or technical neutron scattering applications. According to ENSA, the most outstanding contribution of Juan Colmenero in the field of neutron scattering in conjunction with complex materials such as poly-mers or soft matter in general was the creation of a pioneering, unique and robust scientific methodology based on the combination of neutron scattering with different spectroscopic methods and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations.

Dr. Valeria Garbin (Imperial College London) is the 2018 recipient of the McBain
Medal. The medal is awarded annually by the British Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)/Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Joint Colloids Group to recognize a rising star in colloid and interface science. Dr. Garbin’s research programme focuses on fundamental aspects of microscale transport phenomena in soft and biological matter. Her team has performed the first measurement of steric interactions between nano-particles at fluid interfaces, discovered new mechanisms of the removal of nano-particles from fluid interfaces, and pioneered the use of optical tweezers to manipulate biocolloids for ultrasound medical imaging.

Dr. Barbara Gold (formerly Forschungszentrum Jülich, now ETH Zurich) has been
awarded an Excellence Prize by Forschungszentrum Jülich. The award honours outstanding doctoral theses written mainly in Jülich, combined with excellent achieve-ments during the subsequent postdoctoral phase of up to two years. It is endowed with prize money of € 5,000. During her doctorate, Gold successfully attributed the mechanical behaviour of supramolecular polymers to underlying microscopic processes – an important aspect for the development of tailored plastic materials.

Prof. Dr. Luis Liz-Marzán (University of Vigo, the CIC biomaGUNE, the Basque Foundation for Science Ikerbasque, and the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red Bioingeniería, Biomateriales y Nanomedicina (CIBER-BBN)) has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. The project entitled “Four-Dimensional Monitoring of Tumour Growth by Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering” led by Liz- Marzán will be funded with € 2.4 million over five years. It will deal with the design of materials and methods that allow a study in real time of tumour growth in controlled environments, built from specially designed scaffolds. The use of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) is expected to overcome the limitations of currently used techniques, in particular those related to the ability of observing deeper regions in the tissue. An additional advantage of SERS is that it will allow fundamental studies of tumour growth, without the need for animal experiments. The researchers anticipate that the generated knowledge will facilitate the identification of new drugs that are more effective against cancer and will avoid the side effects of current chemo-therapy.

Dr. Benedikt Sabass (Forschungszentrum Jülich) was presented with one of two Young Investigators Awards by the German Biophysical Society, DGfB, at its Biennial
Meeting 2018 in Düsseldorf. For his lecture on research into understanding the micro-mechanics of bacteria, he was awarded prize money as well as funding for a research stay at the Chair of Molecular Physical Chemistry at Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf.

Dr. Astrid Schneidewind (Forschungszentrum Jülich, outstation in Garching) was
appointed the new Chair of the 11th Committee for Research with Neutrons (KFN). KFN represents all the scientists in Germany who work with neutrons or who are closely connected with neutron research.

Event Reports

A scene from the conference dinner of the AERC 2018. Source: AERC2018 local committee

AERC 2018 in Sorrento: A Scientific Success!

570 delegates attended the Annual European Rheology Conference (AERC) 2018 which took place in Sorrento, Naples, Italy from 17 - 20 April 2018.

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Annual Meeting 2018 Provided Forum for About 130 Members

The SoftComp/EUSMI Annual Meeting 2018 took place in Primosten, Croatia, from 28 - 31 May 2018, with roughly 130 attendees.

Scientific Programme (pdf)
Picture Gallery

Ring Polymers Workshop 2017: Future Research Perspectives

Three SoftComp groups organized the Ring Polymers Workshop in Hersonissos, Crete, Greece from 25 - 27 September 2017.

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Upcoming Events

5th International Soft Matter Conference (ISMC2019)

The ISMC2019 will be held from 3 - 7 June 2019 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, under the auspices of SoftComp.The conference is organised around the following topics: Active Soft Matter ● Arrested Soft Matter ● Colloidal and Granular Soft Matter ● Interfacial Soft Matter ● Living Soft Matter ● Stressed Soft Matter ● Polymeric Soft Matter ● Making and Measuring Soft Matter ● Processing Soft Matter ● Self-assembled Soft Matter

Conference website

Edible Soft Matter A SoftComp Topical Workshop

This SoftComp topical workshop aims to bring together the Soft Matter and Food Science communities. It will take place from 17 - 19 April 2019 in Le Mans, France.

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9th Laboratory Course on Broad-band Dielectric Spectroscopy

This course aims to introduce the participants to dielectric relaxation experimental techniques and their applications in soft-condensed matter research. The training initiative takes place within the framework of EUSMI and SoftComp and is open to researchers and graduate students in Physics, Chemistry or Materials Science. It will take place in San Sebastian, Spain, from 27 - 31 May 2019.

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SoftComp Annual Meeting 2019

The SoftComp Annual Meetings represent a forum for all SoftComp participants to discuss scientific work accomplished and the implementation of future goals. The next meeting is scheduled for 8 - 10 October 2019 in Ancona, Italy. Save the date; more information will be announced in due course under the following URL:

New SoftComp Partners

Laboratoire Ingénierie des Matériaux Polymères UMR 5223
@ University Lyon-St Etienne/CNRS, France

– Number of staff: 57 permanent researchers, 29 engineers and technicians, 130 PhD students and postdocs
Main research topics: Polymers, from chemistry to object ● Relationships between chemistry, structure, rheology and processing ● Materials in relation to Life Sciences and sustainability ● Physical properties of polymers (transport, electric, mechanical)
Methods/infrastructure on offer: Facilities in material processing (reactive and ScCO_2 extrusion, 3D printing, injection, co-kneader, thermoforming…) ● Expertise in the investigation of complex flows in non-equilibrium conditions
Collaborations with industry: More than 50 industrial partners (including: Total, Solvay, Nexans, Elkem, Hutchinson) ● € 6.7 M industrial contracts in 2017 ● One start-up funded (Lactips), 30 employees, € 4 M fundraising in 2017 ● Joint laboratory with the company Total
Group website

Soft Matter Experimental & Theoretical Groups
@ Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy

Number of staff: Soft matter experimental group: 4 scientists, 4 postdocs and 5 PhD students; soft matter theoretical group: 2 scientists, 1 postdoc and 3 Master’s students.
Main research topics: Nanoparticles, drug delivery, supramolecular chemistry, computational biology, proteins, DNA
Methods/infrastructure on offer: Local integrated system of common research facilities, noteworthy is a centre for electron microscopy in partnership with the Stevanato Group, featuring a SEM-FEG Zeiss with cutting-edge electro-optical design, a SEM Jeol and a TEM Jeol 300 kV for HREM, all equipped with EDS microanalysis for element-identification, together with all the necessary instrumentation for sample preparation.
Collaborations with industry: Several public and private partners, specifically established partnerships with important international companies such as the Stevanato Group, Luxottica, Holding Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici
Group website

Polymer Group, MATEIS
@ INSA-Lyon, Villeurbanne, France

Number of staff: 4 Associate Prof., 3 Full Prof., 2 Emeritus, ca. 6 PhD students and
2 postdocs
Main research topics: Structure-property relationships in polymer-based materials (semi-crystalline homopolymers, nanocomposites, block-copolymers, supramolecular networks) ● Metallic glasses
Methods/infrastructure on offer: Range of traction machines ● Range of microscopes in partnership with CLYM (e.g. AFM Veec Dimension V with wide variety of tips; SEM Zeiss SUPRA 55 VP with EDS analysis, EBSD camera), in-situ tensile machine, low vacuum; environmental TEM FEI Titan with accelerating voltage 80-300 kV, aberration corrected, STEM, tomography sample-holder, ultra-fast camera ● SAXS and WAXS apparatus with 2D detector, broadband dielectric spectrometer, low-field solid-state NMR spectrometer, DSC, TGA ● “Atomistic” and “coarse-grained” molecular dynamics simulations + finite elements
Collaborations with industry: Michelin, Renault, EDF and many others
Additional comments: INSA-Lyon is looking for outstanding postdoctoral candidates to apply as Researcher “CR2” to the CNRS.
Group website

About SoftComp

SoftComp first emerged in 2004 as a Network of Excellence – a tool developed under the 6th Framework Programme of the European Commission – and continued as a self-sustaining Consortium in December 2009, when EU funding came to an end. SoftComp deals with the integration of European research, seeking to strengthen scientific and technological excellence in soft matter. In particular, it aims to establish a knowledge base for the intelligent design of functional and nanoscale soft matter composites, by overcoming the present fragmentation of this important field involved in the development of new materials at the interface of non-living and living matter, where the delicate principles of self-assembly in polymeric, surfactant and colloidal matter prevail. SoftComp has created an integrated team that is able to mobilize European potential in soft matter composite materials and thus disseminate excellence through extensive training and knowledge transfer schemes. Softcomp now consists of 39 research groups in 35 different institutions spread over 12 European countries.

Please visit our website for more information or to subscribe to our email newsletter:
Archive of all SoftComp newsletters (electronic and print): Newsletters


Dr. Flavio Carsughi
SoftComp Project Manager
Forschungszentrum Jülich
JCNS Outstation
Lichtenbergstrasse 1
85748 Garching
Phone: + 49 89 289-10703
Fax: + 49 89 289-10799
Angela Wenzik
SoftComp Newsletter Editor
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
52425 Jülich
Phone: +49 2461 61-6048
Fax: +49 2461 61-2410