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Soft Matter Composites - An approach to nanoscale functional materials

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Virtual research centre focused on soft matter science

EU-funded researchers developed a virtual research centre consisting of synthesis, experimentation and simulation tools to coordinate fragmented efforts in the field of soft matter materials science and facilitate new product development.

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Functional nano-scale soft matter composites consist of materials including polymers, self-assembling and biological-type systems, colloids, gels and glasses. They are used in a variety of devices including biosensors for medical purposes, fuel-saving car tyres with lower resistance and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions for the printing industry. While the field of nano-scale soft matter science has been growing rapidly in recent years, research had not been well coordinated. Fragmentation exists both among scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, physics, biology and computational modelling, as well as among the types of sort matter studied. in order to coordinate research efforts and facilitate intelligent design of functional nano-scale soft matter composites, European researchers initiated the ‘Soft matter composites - an approach to nanoscale functional materials’ (Softcomp) project. EU-funding enabled establishment of a European Network of Excellence (NoE), a virtual multi-disciplinary research centre, to unite traditionally separated academic research groups working on soft matter science as well as provide important links to industry. the joint infrastructure significantly expanded research capabilities of individual partners – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – providing access to synthesis information, advanced simulation tools and state-of-the-art experimental techniques via its three research platforms. Regular schools and lab courses were also offered on the project’s website as were downloadable pamphlets for public communication and outreach. continued exploitation of Softcomp’s infrastructure should provide a significant boost to Europe’s soft matter composite materials development and ensure a competitive edge in a growing field with incontrovertible industrial significance.

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