Prof Stoyan Smoukov
Phase changes and confinement
We are interested in the thermodynamics of materials in confinement, as well as the mechanisms and kinetics of their transformation. When confined, particles and even molecules, order and behave in unexpected ways, obtaining new properties compared to bulk materials of the same composition. We have discovered new fundamental responses due to confinement from the molecular up to the micron scales. We have discovered novel, scalable phase separation processes for nanomanufacturing structures from nanofibers to particles.
A major focus of our research are adaptive responsive structures, including materials which respond to several stimuli: temperature, pressure, pH, ionic strength, light, and electromagnetic fields. While artificial muscles with higher energy density could be better actuators for robots, smarter actuators could also provide sensing to start the actuation, or even photonic switches for new optoelectronic computing. Recently, inspired by work in shape-memory polymers, we created multi-functional muscles which can be programmed to “remember and recall movement”.
Integration with living tissues
One attractive promise of active materials is the potential for implantation. Hierarchically structured materials we have made are showing promise for developing novel tissue scaffolds. These are proving successful in several areas of biology.
Smart, Sustainable Energy Use
focused on sustainable uses of energy by embedding dynamics in smart materials. Smart materials could be the devices of tomorrow. Clockwork would become polymer-work. Polymer actuation overcomes the use of multiple joints and motors, and multiple functions eliminate cross-talk between components in current devices. They also lead to better conformability, and compatibility with soft tissues.