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Scientific Opportunities: Materials & Chemical Sciences

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Soft Matter and Biomaterials

A representation of the hierarchical structures in bone: (a) macroscopic bone, (b) osteons (~100 um in diameter) with circular arrangements of differently oriented collagen fibers. (c) A collagen fiber (~5 um in diameter) consisting of bundles of collagen fibrils (each with a diameter of ~500 nm). (d) A striped collagen fibril (each period is ~68 nm in length) consisting of a staggered arrangement of collagen molecules ( each having a diameter of ~1.5 nm) with embedded mineral crystals (with diameters from ~2 to 20 nm and lengths of 30 nm). (e) A collagen molecule triple helix.

Soft matter, such as polymers, liquid crystals, and colloids, are materials that readily respond to mechanical stresses and electric and magnetic fields. They can be processed into thin coatings, and they inspire scientists to design new functional materials and synthetic materials that are compatible with living tissue, such as those that do not stimulate host reaction, like implants, or that can trigger a specific cellular reaction, such as controlled drug-delivery systems. Both classes of materials have hierarchical structures, where the molecular building blocks assemble into multi-molecule structures, which in turn form microscopic structures that are a few nanometers to tens of microns in size.

Soft materials are opening exciting new doors in the fundamental physics and chemistry of materials. They provide a wide variety of novel technological applications, such as flexible displays, photonic devices, information storage media, biomedical materials, drug delivery, electronics and optics, membranes, and porous materials.

The successes achieved in soft materials research in recent years promises dramatic progress in the decade ahead. However, progress will require currently unavailable enhanced structural analysis capabilities, the need for which is being felt even now.

The ultra-high brightness of NSLS-II is required to address many of these challenges. The proposed small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS), ultra small-angle x-ray scattering (USAXS), coherent, and surface scattering beamlines at NSLS-II will provide essential tools in the study of soft matter and biomaterials. The facility's high brightness and flux is essential to achieve a fundamental understanding of the behavior of these systems

Last Modified: May 2, 2014
Please forward all questions about this site to: Gary Schroeder