JARA-SOFT - Researching Soft Matter

Our modern era, in stark contrast to the prehistoric Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages, is characterized by soft matter. Polymers, colloids, amphiphilic structures, and emulsions are amongst the materials categorized by this term. They are found in the plastics industry and in biotechnology among others. Scientists are primarily interested in the properties of soft matter in order to develop new applications for its structures.

Soft matter comprises synthetic and biological macromolecules as well as colloidal and amphiphilic systems. This area of research thus ranges from synthetic macromolecular and supramolecular chemistry to biophysics and statistical physics as well as the engineering sciences. It also includes molecular biology in both its experimental and theoretical aspects.

The long-term challenge of soft matter science is a systemic approach which will allow the knowledge-based creation of increasingly complex hierarchical structures.

For this purpose, a multidisciplinary approach is necessary which will investigate and push the boundaries of soft nanotechnology systems. Dynamic non-equilibrium states play a major role in these efforts. Special emphasis is placed on the cooperative behaviour of systems whose properties actively change based on interactions with their surroundings. This requires feedback mechanisms and memory functions.

JARA-SOFT unites three pillars:

  • The structure of complex materials
  • The quantitative understanding of their properties and processes
  • System integration

The complex problems of soft matter science can no longer be handled by classical polymer and colloid research alone but need intensive interdisciplinary collaboration between all areas of natural, life, and engineering sciences. The targeted creation of complex adaptive materials requires concerted long-term research, making use of modern methods of chemistry, physics, and process engineering, as well as non-equilibrium phenomena. The different kinds of expertise in soft matter research present at Forschungszentrum Jülich, DWI – Leibniz-Institut für Interaktive Materialien, and RWTH Aachen University complement each other exceptionally well. JARA-SOFT therefore presents a special opportunity to coordinate these research activities and to advance necessary future developments. This will decisively strengthen its high scientific competence and international visibility.