Experimental Soft Matter Physics


The research in the group deals with the self-assembly processes occurring in soft matter, our main fundamental science foci being on liquid crystals, colloids and polymers. We are particularly interested in spontaneous long-range ordered structure formation on the nano- and microscales, driven by the unique ordering processes of liquid crystals. We work with the thermotropic as well as the lyotropic class of liquid crystal, often with nematics (chiral or non-chiral) and sometimes with smectics, and when appropriate, we polymerize the phases using reactive mesogens. Our specialty is to study liquid crystalline self-assembly in unconventional contexts, using e.g. electrospinning and microfluidics to produce new composite structures. Apart from investigating their properties and behavior from a fundamental scientific point of view, we also explore their application possibilities, in particular in wearable technology, soft robotics, advanced composite materials, and in secure authentication.

The map below gives a pictorial overview of our main current activities, interests, and some brief info on previous work.

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Currently, the group’s research is organized around the following seven projects (reverse chronological order with respect to starting date):
  • LIMEFLOW. Mr. Larry Honaker will soon join us to work on this Ph.D. project, having obtained an AFR grant from the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR). He will explore the behavior of liquid metal alloys as they are co-flowing in microfluidic set-ups together with various other fluids.

  • INTERACT. An ERC Consolidator Grant-funded project dealing with wearable technology, soft robotics, and dynamic pattern generation, based on liquid crystal-functionalized electrospun fibers, liquid crystal elastomer actuators, and cholesteric liquid crystal shells, respectively.

  • MISONANCE. A joint project between Jan and Prof. Tanja Schilling, also at the PhyMS of UL, funded by the CORE scheme of the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR), focusing on the balance between liquid crystal formation and jamming into glassy states of suspensions of cellulose nanocrystals, and the potential to dry such suspensions into solid films with photonic crystal properties.

  • ULISCO. In this project, Ms. JungHyun Noh studies thin shells of thermotropic liquid crystals and the development of topological defects as a function of phase transitions. It is funded by an AFR Ph.D. grant from the Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR), awarded to JungHyun.

Three most recent publications

Elucidating the fine details of cholesteric liquid crystal shell reflection patterns
Yong Geng, JungHyun Noh, Irena Drevensek-Olenik, Romano Rupp, and Jan P. F. Lagerwall
Liquid Crystals, DOI: 10.1080/02678292.2017.1363916 (2017)

Why organically functionalized nanoparticles increase the electrical conductivity of nematic liquid crystal dispersions
Martin Urbanski, and Jan P. F. Lagerwall Journal of Materials Chemistry C, DOI: 10.1039/C7TC02856C (2017)

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Liquid crystals in micron-scale droplets, shells, and fibers
Martin Urbanski, Catherine G. Reyes, JungHyun Noh, Anshul Sharma, Yong Gang, Venkata Subba Rao Jampani, Jan P.F. Lagerwall
J. Phys,: Condens. Matter, DOI: 10.1088/1361-648X/aa5706 (2017)

More publications can be found here.