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Soft matter

Polymers – Gels- surfactants – Lubricants - Liquid crystals – Emulsions – Colloids - Cosmetics

The expression "soft matter" was first used by France's Nobel prize for physics Pierre-Gilles de Gennes to define “molecular systems giving a strong response to a very weak command signal”. The field is very broad involving polymers, proteins, colloids, lipids, liquid crystals and any systems easily deformed by small external fields, including thermal stresses and thermal fluctuations. The relevant energy scale, comparable with room temperature (~KBT), and the structures in the size range of nanometers to a few micrometers, make these systems ideally suited for neutron scattering studies.
Furthermore soft matter systems are rich in light elements and can be deuterated, improving the quality of information that neutrons can provide.
At the ILL the structure of soft matter is probed by large-scale structures instruments, like small-angle scattering machines, reflectometers, small-angle diffractometers, while their dynamics is studied by neutron scattering spectroscopy with motions probed from the fs time scale (eV) to ~100ns (neV), using inelastic scattering, backscattering, and spin-echo instruments.
Soft matter represents about 20-25% of the ILL output in terms of beam-time use and publications, and benefits from a vibrant scientific environment with the facilities available in the Soft Matter Science and Support group in the Science Building, which runs the Partnership for Soft Condensed Matter activities in collaboration with the ESRF.

Review of ILL research into complex everyday materials: Neutrons and Soft Matter (pdf file, 4.93 Mb)

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Scientists from Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) have helped take a key step towards understanding the development of life on Earth.

The team, led by Dr Philippe Oger, a scientist from the University of Lyon – INSA Lyon, used organic molecules known as…

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Neutrons help investigating the impact of alkanes, which could have allowed the first life to emerge around deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

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Silk may well be the oldest biomaterial humans have exploited. The primary protein comprising silk is fibroin, and in the last century, it has been intensely studied for a variety of advanced applications beyond luxurious fabrics. Some of the most…

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Researchers investigate new interactions between gold nanoparticles and cell membranes. Gold nanoparticles have a range of biomedical applications and are an important tool for drug delivery. Factors such as temperature and membrane charge are…

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