Physics of soft matter, surfaces, and nanostructures

author: Slobodan Žumer, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, University of Ljubljana
author: Igor Muševič, Condensed Matter Physics Department, Jožef Stefan Institute
author: Maja Remškar, Condensed Matter Physics Department, Jožef Stefan Institute
author: Miha Ravnik, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, University of Ljubljana
produced by: S.TV.A.d.o.o.
published: Aug. 14, 2013,   recorded: June 2013,   views: 3626

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The research will cover several complex soft matter systems with interesting functional properties: liquid crystal (LC) elastomers, molecular motors, photonic crystals, and artificially synthesized or spontaneously self-organized micro- and nano-structures. The goal of the proposed research is to coherently use experimental, theoretical, and simulation approaches to uncover how molecular interactions lead to the formation of complex structures, their behaviours, and processes of self-organization. Particular attention will be paid to the possible applications of these systems. The proposed program consists of the tasks:

  1. 2D AND 3D PERIODIC STRUCTURES (PHOTONIC CRYSTALS). Freezing and melting of colloidal particles embedded in a 2D liquid and influenced by external periodic potentials will be investigated. Further, 3D fotonic crystals, formed by colloidal micro- or nano-particles regularly dispersed in a LC matrix, and LC-polymer composites formed by the holographically modulated phase separation, will be studied.
  2. SELF-ORGANIZATION OF COLLOIDAL PARTICLES ON #MICROSTRUCTURED SURFACES in the presence of a liquid medium. We are interested how structural interactions in thermotropic LCs and interactions between interfaces in aqueous solutions change on going from the micro- to nano-region. Surfaces will be patterned by AFM nano-writting, laser writting, or by classic photo lithographic methods. Presumably, a preferential adsorption of particles favouring one type of boundary condition will be achieved.
  3. STRUCTURAL AND FLUCTUATION FORCES IN LCS and model binary systems with modified surfaces. The nature of these forces in the vicinity of phase transitions will be investigated utilizing new experimental techniques of piezoresistive sensors and the total reflection microscope.LC ELASTOMERS are important multifunctional materials with the potential use even as artificial muscles. They are composed of mesogen units forming polymer chains, which are weakly cross linked. To understand molecular mechanisms of the thermo-elastic and opto-elastic effects we decided to study elastomers with admixed deuterated LC probes by deuterium NMR. A possible application of LC elastomers for new technological solutions in adaptive optics will be examined.
  4. DEFECT STRUCTURES & NEW LYOTROPIC AND GLASSY PHASES. The influence of hydrodynamic flow on the dynamics of colloids in LC medium, creation, annihilation, and decay of defects, and fluctuations of topological disclination lines will be investigated. Further we will study the influence of a weak disorder on the phases and dynamics. A particular emphasis will be given to the glass-like behaviour.
  5. NEW HIGH-CONTRAST WIDE-ANGLE LIGHT MODULATORS. Strongly twisted LC structures and effects of ionic contamination in liquid crystal displays will be modelled. The ion adsorption in boundary layers and the resulting unwanted memory effects in AM LCDs will be examined in detail.
  6. MOLECULAR MOTORS: The mechanisms of oscillatory action of motors based on a description of their chemical kinetics will be examined and models for some unconventional motors will be developed. Particular attention will be paid to the synchronization of oscillators and further to spontaneous pattern formation and wave generation in systems where motors and biopolymers interact in a solution. #INORGANIC NANOTUBE SYNTHESIS and their surface functionalization. The research will be aimed towards the synthesis of new materials belonging to the family of sulfides and selenides of transition metals. Further functionalization of the nanotube surface is expected to lead to the adsorption of proteins, DNA, and nanoparticles (e.g. with ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties).
  7. SYNTHESIS OF ORDERED SURFACE NANOSTRUCTURES BY single molecule chemistry performed in a nanoreactor based on the STM will be developed. Thermal and structural stability of nanostructures synthesized by assembling individual atoms and molecules will be studied.

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