JFI Seminar-Yimin Luo, UCSB - Programming Structural Transitions in Soft Matter: Physics and Data Driven Approaches

11:00 am–12:00 pm GCIS E 123

929 E. 57th Street

Chicago, IL 60637

Colloidal suspensions, living cells, and polymer solutions are examples of soft matter systems whose interactions can be tailored to generate functional structures impacting fields of foods, biomaterials, and manufacturing. In my research, I study the behavior of far-from-equilibrium soft matter systems to generate insights to tailor structure formation. Traditionally, we have developed control over such systems using forward, physics-based approaches to understand and design systems for desired outcomes. More recently, inverse, data-driven approaches have emerged that augment our capacities and provide new means to interpret findings. In this talk, I present examples of both approaches and describe how they can be unified in research on soft matter systems. 

While colloidal assembly is typically studied in isotropic fluids, anisotropic fluids like nematic liquid crystals (NLCs) provide new opportunities to control interaction and assembly. NLC are comprise elongated molecules (nematogens) that co-align to minimize their free energy. Colloidal particles in NLC change the nematogen alignment and generate long-ranged interactions with each other and with boundaries. Using colloids and vessels with tailored boundaries, I tap into these effects to develop directed assembly schemes, controlling colloidal particle paths and positions to generate functional reconfigurable structures. Related concepts can be extended to elongated eukaryotic cells, which tend to organize in manners reminiscent of nematogens. I use this concept to study cellular organization on liquid crystalline elastomer substrates. 

Automated, high-throughput experimentation can generate reams of data that can be exploited to generate useful relationships to guide soft matter structure.  Here, I present an automated, high-throughput, in-situ microscopy acquisition and analysis platform which I exploit to study coacervate morphology and rheology. This approach can systematically illuminate the aging process during coacervate phase separation and its influence on viscoelastic properties, in a way that is inaccessible to bulk rheological measurements. 

I close by presenting my vision for a research program in soft matter that draws on both forward and inverse approaches to lay foundations for soft material innovation.

Aug 30