We research the physical foundations of novel (often bio-inspired) materials that respond to their environment in interesting or useful ways. Using and developing numerical methods such as molecular dynamics, as well as analytical tools based in statistical physics, we study the (two-way!) interplay between mechanical forces and structural properties of novel responsive materials.
We are interested in understanding the mechanics of soft materials, of which biological materials are prominent examples. Soft materials are those that can be easily deformed by external stress, electromagnetic fields or just thermal fluctuations: in other words everything that is wet, squishy or floppy. To pursue this, we use a combination of analytical techniques, numerical simulations and, from time to time, some simple experiment.
The Wageningen Soft Matter group works on a range of diverse topics, in which macromolecules generally play an important role. Specific topics include: foams, emulsion and ionic liquids; dense particle systems; biomimetic materials; molecular modelling; proteins and engineered protein polymers; self-assembly of micelles, membranes and vesicles; hydrogels. We aim at analysing soft materials from a physics point of view and manipulating them using chemical tools and expertise.
We are interested in soft matter systems that are inherently out of thermodynamic equilibrium, ranging from non-crystalline polymers and glasses to active and living matter. We employ a combination of statistical-mechanical theory, analytical modeling, and computer simulations to study the structural, dynamical, and mechanical response properties of such materials. The aim is two-fold: firstly, we seek to gain new fundamental insight into the physics of soft and living matter, focusing mainly on the relation between microstructure and emergent dynamics; secondly, we aim to develop new theoretical tools that will ultimately allow us to rationally design, control, and optimize functional materials with adaptive, life-like, and "smart" properties.
We investigate the physical mechanisms that govern the self-organization and (active) mechanical properties of living cells. We focus mainly on the physics of cytoskeletal polymers, active matter, and cellular mechanosensing. Key technologies in our lab are advanced microscopy, optical tweezer manipulation, optical microrheology, and rheology. Ultimately we aim to learn biological design principles to design new biomimetic materials.
The soft condensed matter group of Daniela Kraft is interested in the physics and self-organization of soft matter systems. Topics include the rational design of anisotropic and patchy particles for use as model systems and self-assembly, particle-covered emulsions and virus particles.
We investigate soft condensed matter at the micron scale - crystallization and phase separations, solid and liquid-like behavior, elastic and plastic properties. Using three-dimensional microscopic imaging and light scattering we bridge length scales from the particle scale to macroscopic lengths, thereby linking the microscopic behavior of these materials to their macroscopic properties.
We apply statistical mechanics to problems in liquid crystals, colloids, supramolecular polymers, viruses and geometric percolation. The toolbox we make use of ranges from analytical methods to Brownian and molecular dynamics simulations. In the past focus was on static properties and phase behaviour in soft matter systems but our attention is shifting toward dynamics.
We are a theory group, focused on predictive modeling of the mechanical properties of soft, mostly biological, materials: Biopolymers, lipid bilayer membranes, biological and biomimetic network materials. We use analytical theory, Monte Carlo and MD simulations to better understand the relation between microscopic properties, spatial organization and, ultimately, macroscopic response.