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Eric Furst, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, has received two grants totaling $727,000 for his work on directed self-assembly of soft materials.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Furst $292,000 to investigate interactions and self-assembly of anisotropic colloidal particles in electric fields, while the Department of Energy (DOE) has granted him $435,000 to study directed self-assembly of nanodispersions.
Soft materials, which are neither crystalline solids nor simple liquids but lie somewhere in between, include soaps, paints, gels, plastics, glues, and biological tissues.
"Biological systems have provided us with the inspiration to engineer modern soft materials using self-assembly," Furst explains. "We're using the same principles to manipulate and control the interactions of colloidal particles and other building blocks so that they spontaneously organize themselves into structures that perform a desired function."
According to Furst, directed self-assembly is especially important for the development of nanotechnology, and his two recent grants are an outgrowth of previous funding to a group of faculty in the UD Department of Chemical Engineering through NSF's Nanotechnology and Interdisciplinary Research Team (NIRT) program.
"Engineering micro- to nanoscale devices and nanostructured materials requires control and understanding of the thermodynamics and kinetics of self-assembly of nanoscale building blocks in solution," he says.
One approach to providing that control is to use electric fields to guide the process in a particular way. The new NSF grant will support work addressing that issue, with a particular focus on unusual particles known as doublets, which resemble two spheres pushed together.
"We're interested in seeing how these particles polarize in an electric field and how their shape affects their ability to form a structure," Furst says. "The work promises to give us new insights into directed self-assembly."
The DOE project will be directed toward how the technology can be used to harvest soft materials for energy applications.
Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Doug Baker
About University of Delaware
The University of Delaware has a great tradition of excellence, from our founding as a small private academy in 1743, to the research-intensive, technologically advanced institution of today.
Our alumni tell our story of achievement, from our first class, which included three signers of the Declaration of Independence and one signer of the U.S. Constitution, to the more than 140,000 living Blue Hens who are making vital contributions to the world--in science, business, education, the arts, policy, health care, the environment, and many other areas. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, are both UD alumni.
The University received its charter from the State of Delaware in 1833 and was designated one of the nation’s historic Land Grant colleges in 1867. Today, UD is a Land Grant, Sea Grant and Space Grant institution. UD also is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a research university with very high research activity--a designation accorded to less than 3 percent of U.S. colleges and universities.
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