The Soft Materials Research Center is organized to pursue the discovery of novel phenomena and the creation of new paradigms in soft materials in two principal areas:

  The understanding and application of liquid crystals are among the great scientific and technological achievements of the twentieth century, with integrated electronics and liquid crystal displays combining to enable the portable computing revolution.  In the 21st century, the study of liquid crystals offers unparalleled opportunities to advance the basic science and materials design of condensed matter, and to develop new liquid crystal applications. Novel device concepts and materials forming the basis for for high-performance displays, as well as for advanced photonic devices and other non-display applications of liquid crystals. Liquid crystal structural themes are at the core of the effort in IRG-1 to pursue supermolecular organization and self-assembly of complex materials.

  Recent years have seen breathtaking advances in nanoscale science emerging from the adaptation of the evolved capabilities of DNA to the programmed self-assembly of nanostructures. CNAs are DNA analogs in which the monomer base units are joined using photo-initiated thiol-ene click ligation, a family of chemistries known for their robust, clean reactions. CNAs materials with monomer chain and base structures that can be widely tuned to control characteristics like flexibility, chirality and compatibility are the focus of IRG-2, research that aims to bring sequence-directed self-assembly to the materials realm.

The Soft Materials Research Center (SMRC), an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), combines research activity with vigorous programs of educational and industrial outreach. The SMRC is based at the Boulder Campus of the University of Colorado, and directed by Noel Clark, Professor of Physics.

Colloidal and Defect Knots in Liquid Crystals

topological colloidColloidal particles dispersed in liquid crystals induce nematic fields and topological defects that are dictated by the topology of the colloidal particles. However, little is known about such interplay of topologies. By taking advantage of two-photon photopolymerization techniques to make knot-shaped microparticles, Center investigator Ivan Smalyukh and co-workers have shown that the interplay of the topologies of the knotted particles, the nematic field and the induced defects leads to knotted, linked and other topologically non-trivial field configurations, and that such mutually tangled configurations satisfy topological constraints and follow predictions from knot theory. (1/14).
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