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.
Our work lies at the interface between soft matter and fluid dynamics. In particular, we study the interaction between interfacial flows and soft (biological) materials such as bacteria, eukaryotic cells or proteins. In our research we aim to combine exciting physics with applications in biology and (biomedical) engineering.
Our research focuses on understanding how matter flows. From the soft-glassy rheology of complex fluids with an internal microscopic structure to large-scale turbulent flows. Our approach combines theory, numerical simulations and experiments to investigate the fundamental physics of these systems and to understand their complex statistical properties. Additionally, we work on extending physics tools to describe and understand the dynamics of active systems including social systems such as the flow of human crowds.
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 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.
Our research focuses on the study of hydrodynamic flow in colloidal systems that have a close relation to biology, where physical modeling can give insights into biomedically relevant problems. Specifically, we are interested in the effect of nonlinear response of the fluid medium (viscoelasticity) on the motion of out-of-equilibrium particles and model swimmers therein, think bacteria moving through mucus. In addition, we study the effect of simple fluid flow on large numbers of colloids, e.g., colloidal gels, and the effects of electrokinetic flow on the transport of particles and ions through nanopores. We employ lattice Boltzmann, finite element methods, Stokesian dynamics, molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo, and a host of analytic techniques to tackle these problems.
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.
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 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 Molecular Materials group at Radboud University develops new synthetic hydrogels. The gels are based on polyisocyanides that reversibly gel when heated beyond room temperature. The semi-flexible nature of the polymer chains in combination with the fibrous architecture makes the gels very similar to collagen or fibrin gels, but with synthetic materials, we have much more control over their molecular structure and, hence the gel properties. Part of the group studies how we can (in situ) manipulate the mechanical properties of the gels; the other part manipulates the hydrogel to direct cell behaviour.
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 study rare events in soft matter and biomolecular systems, including folding of proteins, biomolecular isomerization and association, soft matter self-assembly and nucleation, and active matter transitions. In order to gain insight in such processes and make predictions, we conduct multiscale modeling simulations using rare event and coarse-graining techniques. In addition, we develop novel advanced simulation methods, including machine learning based techniques. The final aim is to predict biophysical and soft matter properties, to understand complex systems and design novel materials.
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.
At the EmBioSys Lab, we study emergent properties of biological systems. We are a team of interdisciplinary scientists keen to understand how biomolecules self-organize to give rise to life. The other side of this fundamental exploration is to design bio-inspired, minimal functional modules to take a step closer towards synthetic cells. We are currently focussing on understanding cellular morphogenesis, especially the interplay between cytoskeleton, membranes, and biomolecular condensates. In parallel, we develop microfluidic techniques to achieve controlled experimentation and are further expanding towards biosensing.
We focus on the study at the nanoscale of biomolecular process in life and disease, such as protein liquid-liquid phase separation and protein self-assembly, as well as characterising advanced functional surfaces and materials. To pursue this objective, we develop and apply transformative single molecule imaging and spectroscopic technologies based on scanning probe microscopy to open a new research front and window of observation in Soft Matter.
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.