Facility will create space to improve common polymer-based materials

Three researchers work with soft matter in lab

Image: The College of Engineering

Researchers from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University are spearheading the development of an interdisciplinary soft matter research user facility. The facility will help users conduct research to improve multifunctional polymer-based materials that are used in many applications, including energy, health care and transportation, among others, and will benefit the entire Texas A&M research community.

In addition to the promotion of collaborative efforts in research, the facility is also significant in that it will be the only user facility in Texas specifically dedicated to the characterization of multifunctional soft materials.

The project includes 29 faculty members across multiple colleges and centers, including the colleges of engineering, science, and agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M, in addition to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, representing all entities across the university actively involved in soft materials-related research.

The department is jointly operated by the College of Engineering and College of Science.

The soft matter facility is funded through the Research Development Fund for about $1.7 million, and will be located in the WD Van Gonten Laboratory Building, occupying 3,100 square feet of lab space. It is intended as an avenue to showcase current research in the field of soft materials-related research and encourage other researchers to join and support this interdisciplinary effort.

“We want this facility to become an interdisciplinary research center,” said Svetlana Sukhishvili, a professor and a member of the facility’s executive committee. “The faculty will facilitate targeted faculty hires in this discipline in many colleges. It will be a premiere location to show our students and visitors the exciting discoveries we are making and hopefully encourage them to join our efforts.”

Facilities in use at Texas A&M currently favor researchers working with “hard” materials, so the soft matter facility will focus on integrating state-of-the-art instruments on campus and acquiring new equipment to address the needs for faculty working on soft matter. The facility will have specialized instrumentation suites based on soft-matter centered research areas that include mechanics, molecular characterization, nanostructure characterization, processing, and thin film and interfacial analysis.

“The multidisciplinary character of the soft matter research at Texas A&M is apparent from the diversity of departments and colleges we have involved in this project,” Sukhishvili said. “This facility will fill a significant gap on campus in coordinated research activities related to soft matter and foster the interaction between Texas A&M scientists in this field.”