Department of Applied Physics

Theory of Polymers and Soft matter

Enabling a sustainable, functional and resource-efficient next generation of materials by uncovering the physical mechanisms underlying the behavior of soft and biological matter. 

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Materials you can trust with your life

We study the fundamental processes that organize the assembly, the structure and the mechanical properties of biological and other soft materials. Fundamental and applied research reinforce each other: We figure out how these materials work, and use these insights to develop bio-inspired design strategies to improve and disrupt the development of man-made materials.5 PIs within TPS address this challenge from complementary angles and backgrounds. Together, we cover the full spectrum of length and time scales, from atom to organism. We develop and use a broad range of analytic and numerical tools: statistical mechanical calculations both in and out of equilibrium, and simulations using e.g. Molecular Dynamics, Monte Carlo, Lattice Boltzmann, and energy landscape techniques.

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"Agent of change"

I want to make a difference. A difference with our work, as we try to contribute to a materials revolution that will make obsolete the plastics we are currently so dependent on, but which will run out soon. I also want to make a difference in our organization. A new generation of scientific talent is getting ready to break through and will, like the other generations before them, bring with them a new way of working. More connected, more diverse, less localized, and bridging disciplines and countries. TU/e should act now, to ensure that we remain an attractive employer both for our current colleagues and for future ones.

Kees Storm, professor of Theoretical Biophysics at TU/e 

Our PI Groups

Theory of Polymers and Soft Matter comprises 5 subgroups.

Green tyres: Building better rubbers with biomaterials

In recent years a significant driver for global growth in (amorphous) polymer materials has been the innovative production and use of plastics in new application areas such as sustainable energy, automotive, rail, naval, transport, construction and infrastructure, defence and aerospace, medical and healthcare, electronics and telecommunication. Using dynamic computer simulations, our goal is to provide physical insights for predicting the morphology and thermomechanical properties of nanocomposites with bio and inorganic fillers, from their atomic-level characteristics. One example is the use of biopolymers (PLA) to create better rubbers for ‘green tyres’.

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Active materials: swimmers, cells, switching?

Active matter provides a new paradigm for understanding non-equilibrium behavior in living systems, as well as for designing responsive and bio-inspired materials with novel functional properties. Using coarse-grained simulations and theory, we study phenomena such as collective cell migration during wound healing, self-organization of active membrane structures, and the solidification and fluidization response of disordered active materials. Applications range from targeted drug delivery to self-healing materials and soft robotics.

Meet some of our Researchers

Hydrogels: from mechanical actuators to drug delivery platforms

Hydrogels are solid materials that consist of almost only water held together by a polymer network. Because these materials are relatively soft they respond strongly to changes in, e.g., temperature, acidity and concentration of salt, and hence are promising candidates for actuators and controlled drug release. We combine simulations with analytical theory to better understand the relation between structure, mechanics, thermodynamics and performance of such networks and gels.

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