Programmable active soft matter

Welcome to our group’s webpage. The objective of this page is to provide information on the activities, finding and latest developments related to our research on the computational mechanics of soft matter. The group is located at the University of Colorado Boulder and consists of the PI, Dr. Franck Vernerey and a team of graduate and undergraduate researchers. Feel free to contact any of us if you have questions or need to access a publication from our group.

What is soft matter? The emerging field of soft matter deals with the study of materials whose behavior is between that of a deformable solid and a viscous fluid. Their response is dictated by a competition between enthalpic effects (arising from physical forces) and entropic effects (arising from thermal fluctuations). Due to their ability to sense and change structure according to their environment, these materials are key to numerous biological functions (in cells and vesicles for instance) and play an increasingly important role in new technologies in engineering and medicine. Our research interests lies in bio-inspired/active soft matter, in particular we concentrate on soft responsive shells and membranes, active functionalized hydrogels for tissue engineering and self-actuating particles (capsules and liposomes) in interactions with porous media.


(a) Soft-skin inspired by scaled biological structures, (b) bending of the skin and (c) Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction waves producing the periodic motion of active gels.


Mission of the group. As in most materials, the response of soft matter relies on its internal microstructure, which might be distributed over several length scales. A difference with traditional engineering materials however, is that this structure can change in response to mechanical and chemical  stimuli among others. This can explain why cells and tissue can quickly adapt to their environment by growth, contraction and structural changes. A principal challenge for researcher is to understand these complex processes via experiments and modeling. The mission of our group is to understand the physics underlying the response of soft matter through multi scale modeling and further use this knowledge to program the material for a specific task (such as tissue growth, drug delivery or controlled morphology changes). Our current research focusses on the mechanics of active polymer networks (such as the cell cytoskeleton and man-made active hydrogels), the growth of engineered tissue in cell-laden hydrogel scaffolds, the mechanics and transport of soft micron-size vesicles in porous media mechanics, with application to self-sustained migration and targeted transport.  Read more about these projects on our research page.

Acknowledgment: We would like to knowledge the generous support of Herb Vogel (through the Vogel faculty fellowship), the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health for their generous support of our research through the years.



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