This first issue spotlights the research field of soft matter, an interdisciplinary field attracting attention from chemists, physicists, biologists and engineers. Spearheading soft matter research is a mighty challenge, but scientists are striving for goals and innovation in this field. We introduce 11 researchers mainly based within the university’s Global Station of Soft Matter. It also includes a roundtable talk by globally prominent experts in soft matter science and 2 contributed articles.
Chapter 1. Hydrogels as promising materials
The invention of double network (DN) gels has rewritten the conventional concept that hydrogels are mechanically weak materials, opening up a whole new field in materials science. This chapter features four brilliant scientists who work on the extremely tough hydrogels, as well as hydrogels with unique and promising properties.
- Extremely tough double network hydrogels open up numerous potential applications
- Interdisciplinary lab culture leads to DN gel breakthrough
- Tapping the world of polyampholytes to make a self-healing gel
- Inventing multifunctional hydrogel that changes color under stress
Chapter 2. Soft crystals and molecular machines
This chapter introduces the development of unique crystals that change color and other properties in response to external stimuli – research that could lead to the development of super sensitive sensors and smart responsive materials. Also featured is two scientists’ quest to develop molecular machines that bring us closer to creating nano-robots that can be used in medicine and industry.
- Crystals change color in response to vapor stimuli
- Insatiable pursuit of new mechanochromic molecules
- The quest to make a synthetic molecular motor
- DNA computing brings molecular robot a step closer to reality
Chapter 3. Hydrogels in medicine
Hydrogels, which are soft yet tough, share properties similar to living tissues, making them an ideal substitute for cartilage. Moreover, recent studies have demonstrated that hydrogels can influence cell fates. They can induce the regeneration of cartilage tissue in vivo, which had been regarded impossible, and even reprogram cancer cells into stem cells. This chapter sheds light on the challenges to bring the fruits of hydrogel research into medicine.
- Hydrogels as inducer of cartilage regeneration
- A breakthrough in the potential application of hydrogels as a cartilage substitute
- DN gels – a potential weapon to fight cancer
Roundtable Talk Columns.
Soft matter: Past, present and future
- From nonlinear physics to ethology in active soft matter
- My memories of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes