States away from equilibrium is a growing, interdisciplinary research field with yet unknown basic principles and many similarities to the biological world. It is known, however, that the cooperative nature of metastability, the associated slow kinetics and the complexity in phase space are related to the existence of long range forces and to strong spatial and temporal correlations. Under equilibrium conditions, often unattainable, the number of self-assembling structures is limited and is given by equilibrium thermodynamics. On the contrary, under non-equilibrium conditions, a plethora of new self-assembled structures is formed. A principal focus of the work will be on finding the basic underlying principles that give rise to self-assembly in a range of systems where structural and kinetic frustration is provided by different means.
This ambitious but realistic approach requires a methodology that includes the synthesis of molecular (discotic liquid crystals, DLC), supramolecular (multivalent copolymers) and mesoscopic (hybrid core-shell nanoparticles) systems with important potential applications. It further requires the implementation of different but complementary techniques with high spatial and temporal resolution and over broad space and time scales as well as simulation/theory.
The work is organized in work packages, each per research group:
- WP 1-9: Project coordination, self-assembly, phase state and dynamics.
- WP 10-11: Synthesis WP 12-18: Rheology/dynamics in solution and the presence of surfaces.
- WP 19-25: Simulation and theory.
The expected results include novel synthesis of DLCs and of core-shell particles, the identification of structural defects and of metastable states and the construction of phase diagrams for systems with molecular, supramolecular and mesoscopic structures. In addition, a new computational methodology will be implemented capable of predicting the thermodynamic and dynamic state directly from the chemical structure.