Short introduction to the Laboratory

We study the physics of soft and complex matter, i.e. composite or non-composite materials with easily deformable nano-/meso-structures, by application of external fields, such as flow fields (microfluidics), mechanical forces, electric or magnetic fields, or by thermal fluctuations.

A main physical model system for the laboratory is clay, which are nano-layered silicate patchy particles, which can form soft and complex structures through spontaneous or guided self-assembly of particles.

Other materials that we study and use as model systems for soft and complex matter are various types of colloidal particles, cellulose, zeolites, surfactants, polymers etc.

In particular we are interested in natural and nature-inspired materials science, including geo-inspired materials such as synthetic clays.


* Developing new understanding of basic physical properties and processes in soft and complex matter from the nano-scale to the.human and geological scales. We wish to sort out what is universal, from what is specific.

* Work on universal problems of practical relevance to fields of actual importance to society, ranging from nanotechnology to environmental or energy rleated topics. Examples of possible applications emerging from our research, for future technologies include: Molecular, including CO2, capture and retention by natural and nature-inspired materials, soft matter electronics, complex photonic materials, soft scaffolds for bioengineering, new composite cementious eco-materials.

Scientific keywords

Soft matter, Nature-inspired materials, Nano-technology, Complex matter, Pattern formation, Anomalous diffusion, Spontaneous and guided selfassembly, Smart materials, Nano-structured materials, Nano-particles, Nano-clays, Composite materials, Photonic structures, Hydrodynamics and Rheology, Microfluidics, Nanofluidics.

Figure 2 description.

Example of control of light by clay structures: Schematic of the nano-structure of an isotropic laponite glass; (left) and of a Laponite glass with evaporation-induced orientational order (middle). The right experimental image shows developing dynamic birefringence in the evaporating laponite glass. From: Hansen, E.L. et al., Soft Matter, 9, 99994(2013).

Figure 2 description.

Small molecules, for example CO2 can be stored in between clay layers by intercalation. Scetch taken from: Michels, L. et al., Scientific Reports by Nature 5, 8775(2015).

Figure 2 description.

SEM image from self-assembled Pt on graphite at 7 min deposition time. Experimental image adapted from: Julukian, A. et al., J. Vac. Sci. Technol. B 32, 031803(2014).

Figure 2 description.

Complexity means "reduction and removal of redundancy", as first defined by John Locke (1632-1704): "Ideas thus made up of several simple ones put together, I call complex; such as beauty, gratitude, a man, an army, the universe". This is illustrated in art by Picasso in his famous bull drawing from 1945, shown above.

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Laboratory for Soft and Complex Matter Studies was featured in Soft Matter World September 2012.

Link to Soft Matter World.

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A particle laden drop of silicone oil and covered by 50 µm polyethylene particles with two different colors. Experimental images from: Rozynek, Z. et al., Nature Communications 5, 3945(2014).

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A silicone oil drop with an electrohydrodynamically induced ribbon of clay particles. In addition, the applied DC E-field polarizes the clay particles forming electrorheological chains via dipole-dipole interactions. Experimental image taken from: Dommersnes, P. et al., Nature Communications 4, 2066(2013).

Figure 2 description.

Crystalline swelling (intercalation) occurs when external molecules, such as H2O enter the interlayer space within a clay particle. High temperatures facilitate the intercalation and the distance between clay layers increase during osmotic swelling. Sketch taken from: Hansen, E. L. et al., Scientific Reports by Nature 2, 618(2012).

Figure 2 description.

A drawing called "Various animals attempting to follow a scaling law" by Pierre Gilles de Gennes in his book "Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics", Cornell University Press 1979.

NTNU description.