1.68 million euro award from FOM for materials research program of Kees Storm

Dr. Kees Storm has been awarded a grant of 1.68 million euros from the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) for his research program ‘The mechanics of soft materials under control’. FOM has awarded total grants of 9.9 million euros for five new programs.

The ‘Free FOM programs’ combine the best research groups in their fields in the Netherlands. Each of these research programs bring together the leading specialists at different knowledge institutes in the Netherlands, according to FOM. The five recipient programs are the winners of a tough competition that started in early 2012 with 18 submissions.

Program leader Storm and his fellow researchers are working on ‘marginal materials’ – a completely new category of matter formed by starting with a highly interconnected structure and removing all the superfluous structural bonds one by one. These materials show a unique mechanical response just before they lose their structural integrity and fall apart. Recent theoretical work has shown that small changes in structure, temperature, composition and load have an enormous effect on the material properties. This principle opens the way to materials that become stronger just before they lose integrity and fall apart, materials with self-healing characteristics or materials with excellent ability to absorb shocks and noise.

The researchers are using a completely new strategy that is strongly focused on making and characterizing innovative, functional soft polymeric materials. In this work they make use in many different ways of the high mechanical responsiveness of marginal soft networks. “This is an excellent opportunity to take this new strategy for designing soft matter from the computer to reality”, said Storm, who works in the TU/e (Eindhoven University of Technology) department of Applied Physics and the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems. “Our program covers the whole spectrum from new fundamental physics right through to materials that are ready for use in industrial applications. We have an enthusiastic team of theoretical and experimental physicists who, together with industry, are dedicated to this challenge.”

The research work in Storm’s program is carried out jointly by VU University Amsterdam (MacKintosh), Leiden University (Vitelli and Van Hecke), Eindhoven University of Technology, FOM Institute AMOLF (G.H. Koenderink and Leunissen) and Utrecht University (Velikov) in cooperation with Unilever R&D.