The research problematic falls into the flexible frontiers of a young field called Soft Matter: “where physics meets chemistry meets biology”. Thin films, coatings, and surfaces comprise the means of connection of a physical or biological living system with its surroundings. The skin of a tomato can crack, the packaging film of a cookie bag can tear, the protective coating of a ship hull can break, a red blood cell can burst etc. These are examples of a similar phenomenon at different length scales and involving different materials.
This Anillo project brings together researchers of different backgrounds to study interfaces or film materials with an eye to applying the lessons in problems of interest for industry. Two-dimensional objects, for instance eggshells, fruit cuticles, packaging films, membranes, vesicles, lipid monolayers and bilayers, nanoparticle films and aggregates, self healing coatings, polymer films, and pollen grains are our subjects of research. Our emphasis is focused on understanding the collective behavior of these structures such as aggregation and growth, calcification, fracture, buckling, adhesion in coatings, or substrate interaction. An interdisciplinary approach and cross-disciplinary techniques will be used to tackle this problem. Single molecule fluorescence, optical and magnetic tweezers, atomic force microscopy are some of the techniques that will be developed and applied by the group during the project.
Applying these methods, training our students to learn their use, and using these techniques for research, also form part of our goals. We expect to have a strong educational impact in the physics engineering and PhD programs, the core source of students for our Anillo, by widening the traditional framework of problems that our students are being trained to respond to.
Enrique Cerda (Anillo Director)