Research

Broadly speaking, we are interested in those physical systems where nontrivial collective behavior emerges from the competition among elasticity, hydrophobicity, and entropy. Systems under scrutiny include synthetic/biopolymers, artificial/biological membranes, and complex fluids.

We are currently exploring how elastic surfaces can be used to drive self-assembly of colloidal particles. The patterns exhibited by the particle aggregates are intimately connected to the topology of the surface and its mechanical properties, i. e. its elastic response to bending and stretching deformations. We find that by tuning the relative costs of bending and stretching deformations it is possible to continuously morph the form of the aggregates across different patterns.

We are also interested in understanding the role of particle shape in self-assembly and packing of nanocomponents. We are exploring both hard and soft anisotropic particles, of varying interaction geometry and/or shape. Examples of such systems include aspherical hard particles, polymer-tethered colloids, and soft dumbbells. We use effective interactions to show how relaxing the constraint of interpenetrability between nanocomponents opens the way to the formation of a plethora of new mesophases.

Finally, we are working on the problem of "reverse self-assembly"; that is, the design of interparticle interaction for the generation of specific self-assembled structures. We use thermodynamics and statistical mechanics to design algorithms towards this goal.

The group uses computer simulations as the main tool of scientific inquiry and welcomes collaborations with experimental groups interested in similar problems.