Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Soft condensed matter

What are the mysteries behind soft condensed matter?

Michel Orrit
ERC Advanced Grant ERC Advanced Grant

There is a world of difference between solid materials and liquids. Not a great deal is known about this strange world of solid materials.  Molecular physicist, Professor Michel Orrit, has a mission.  The European Research Council has awarded him an Advanced Grant to fulfil this mission.

Soft materials, soft condensed matter, are complex liquids, such as glass-forming liquids like polymers, 'normal' glass or glycerol. But they are also mixtures of solid materials and liquids, such as ketchup or mayonnaise, which change in consistency as they are put under pressure. But they do not all do this in the same way.

Fundamental knowledge

New fundamental knowledge about soft materials is of vital importance to different branches of industry, such as the food industry and the pharmaceuticals industry, which want to know how a substance feels or how well two different substances will mix. A characteristic of all these materials is that they may be very heterogenous in consistency. This heterogeneity is not yet properly understood.

Fluorescing paint molecules

The relations between the behaviour of these materials at macroscopic and microscopic level appear to be particularly interesting.  Orrit works at microscopic level.  He makes use of separate flourescing paint molecules which he introduces as  kind of informant into complex, transparent materials, after which he examines under an optical microscope how they behave within the material and what resistance they meet and where.

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