Some Puzzles and Research Opportunities in Soft Materials

Friday, March 03, 2023

A fundamental challenge of modern physical science is forming structure that is not frozen in place, but instead reconfigures internally driven by energy throughput and adapts to its environment robustly.

Exploring the potential of liquid-phase TEM to image individual molecules and their mutual interactions, we analyze failed and successful encounters of polymers, proteins, and enzymes. In living cells, we find that transportation efficiency problems bear a provocative parallel with polymer chain trajectories with their spatial extent, and with jammed matter in their time evolution. With catalytic enzymes, we find problems of mechanobiology.

A picture emerges in which simple experiments, performed at single-particle and single-molecule resolution, can dissect macroscopic phenomena in ways that surprise.

Steve Granick did his PhD at Wisconsin with JD Ferry and postdoc under Nobel recipient P.-G. de Gennes, and carries on illustrious polymer science work -- he chaired the DOE Polymer Materials council and the APS Polymer Physics division and won many major awards from ACS and APS as well as an NSF Special Creativity Award. He moved to UMASS Amherst just this year.