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Soft Materials Advanced Research Training Network

Final Report Summary - SMARTNET (Soft Materials Advanced Research Training Network)


SMARTNET (Soft Materials Advanced Research Training Network )

Marie Curie Initial Training Network No. 316656

Project Coordinator: Dr. Francisco Cuesta Sanchez
Scientific Coordinator: Prof. Jan van Esch
Dep. Of Chemical Engineering
Delft University of Technology
Delft, The Netherlands


Summary of project objectives
SMARTNET (“Soft materials advanced training network”) established a European multi-site network of 12 Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) and 3 Experienced Researchers (ERs) at seven host organisations: Delft University of Technology(NLD), Université Bordeaux (FR), Universitat Jaume I de Castellon (ES), University of York (UK), University of Strathclyde (UK), Nano Fiber Matrix bv (NLD), and Solvay Laboratory of the Future (FR). The primary objective of the SMARTNET ITN was to provide a unique cross-disciplinary research and training program at the interface of chemistry, physics, and biology, and deals with the science and technology of molecular soft materials that encompasses the entire spectrum from fundamental understanding to societal benefit.
The main scientific objectives of SMARTNET have been:
• To develop conceptually novel approaches towards the next generation of soft matter, based on self-assembling small molecules as promising alternatives to existing systems
• To understand the dynamics of networks of self-assembled small molecules and their implication on the dynamics of associated fluids.
• To control the structuring of self-assembled small molecules into 3D architectures

Work performed within the project

Each research fellow has participated in the 3 scientific schools, 3 workshops and the International conference organized by SMARTNET, as well enrolled in local training at each of the host institutes. Furthermore, each fellow has carried out 2 secondments of 1-3 months at other hosts, of which at least one with the private sector partners of SMARTNET.

The SMARTNET research programme consisted of 12 ESR and 3 ER projects. The main results included:
• The development of catalytic (organo)hydrogelators and demonstration of catalysis in nanoporous materials
• The simulation of fiber by molecular self-assembly and a generic protocol to model fiber formation by mesoscale molecular dynamics
• The fabrication of compartmentalized hydrogels by multicomponent self-assembly
• The construction of chemoresponsive membranes
• Structural characterization of multicomponent systems and establishment of design rules for multicomponent self-assembly
• The fabrication of 3D 3D structured gels by photopatterned gels for directed cell growth
• Demonstration and study of Exciton and electron transport in self-assembled nano-fibers
• Exploiting molecular fuels to enzymatically produce gels with properties dictated by fuel level
• The development of a new milli/microfluidic device to shape conductive droplets
• Dynamic crosslinked gels and catalytic control of viscoelasticity of molecular hydrogels
• Enzymatic gelation of aromatic peptide amphiphiles
• Biocatalytic self-assembly of structurally diverse, chemically identical gels
• Real-time imaging of 3D nanostructures
• Stem cell differentiation at 3Dstructured cells
• Demonstration of tandem organo/biocatalysis in self-assembled multicomponent gels

• so far, about 15 peer-reviewed papers published.
• many manuscripts are submitted, in peer review, or in preparation for publication (about 30)

• SMARTNET results have been published in Science (Boekhoven et al., Science, 349, 1075-1079, 2015).

• SMARTNET results have been presented at numerous occasions (> 75 contributions) at international conferences as invited lectures, oral contributions, or posters.
• the SMARTNET websites has been maintained and frequently updated.

Deliverable and milestones
All deliverables and milestones of the project were successfully completed.

Final results and potential impact of SMARTNET
SMARTNET has led to a significant progress in the design and understanding of supramolecular gel materials with properties that are complementary to inorganic and (bio)macromolecular gel. Moreover, this knowledge has been applied to develop new systems and approaches for catalysis, rheology control, 3D superstructured materials, cell growth scaffolding, that are highly relevant for future applications in e.g. formulation technology, molecular electronics, new materials for catalysis and biomedical applications, and tissue engineering. Last but not least, SMARTNET has delivered a new generation of highly skilled PhDs who can overlook the entire spectrum from fundamental understanding to societal benefit of the technology of molecular soft materials.