Soft Molecular Matter

Soft Molecular Matter

The broad area of Soft Molecular Matter encompasses studies of polymers, surfactants, colloids, gels, glasses, composites, and even simple fluids. These materials are the quintessential mesoscale systems in that their macroscopic properties arise through a combination of interactions over several length and time scales from the nanoscale of the individual building blocks to the microscale of long chains and self-assembled arrays. This area of science is ubiquitous to the energy mission of DOE. In a recent BES report [1], polymers and soft matter were discussed in five of the six “Priority Research Directions for Mesoscale Science.” These synthetic materials are composed of individual, small molecular building blocks which are covalently bound to produce new materials properties. They can be used to artificially mimic the functions of biological materials or they can be built to self-assemble in collective structures with new exciting properties.

Research in soft molecular matter directly addresses two science challenges:

  • How do we design and perfect atom- and energy-efficient synthesis of revolutionary new forms of matter with tailored properties?
  • How can we master energy and information on the nanoscale to create new technologies with capabilities rivaling those of living things?