The Triangle Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation (CEMRI)* will be a national resource for materials science and engineering research and education in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (Triangle) area of North Carolina, a thriving technological and economic hub with a high concentration of materials innovation activity in both academia and industry. The Triangle CEMRI will focus on the study and development of soft matter components to be used in programmable assembly and functional and hybrid materials that result from the assembly of these components. It will synergistically leverage existing and complementary strengths of Duke, NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University, a top-ranked public HBCU. The Triangle CEMRI will have a significant impact in soft matter materials science through generation of (i) new fundamental insights and theoretical understanding, (ii) new design principles, (iii) new applications and uses for colloidal and macromolecular materials and their higher order assemblies, and (iv) an integrated education and outreach program. Understanding, harnessing and exploiting the dynamic processes related to the aggregation of multicomponent particulate and macromolecular assemblies represent significant current frontiers in materials research. Two interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs) comprised of leading researchers in materials theory, simulation, synthesis, processing and applications will surmount these frontiers. A Seed-funding program will also be instituted to allow the extension of the Triangle CEMRI's scope to new areas of soft matter research.

IRG1: Multicomponent Colloidal Assembly by Comprehensive Interaction Design. The goal of IRG1 is to develop a fundamental understanding of self-assembly of bulk materials from multi-component suspensions of very small particles (colloids). The team will focus on elucidating the fundamental rules that govern programmed colloidal assembly for materials fabrication by design. Ultimately, this work will have ramifications for the production of hybrid photonic and phononic crystals, anisotropic conducting films, self-healing materials, "smart" gels, metamaterials, and other advanced engineering materials.

IRG2: Genetically Encoded Polymer Syntax for Programmable Self-Assembly. The overall goal of IRG2 is to establish the rules for the design of "syntactomers" whose phase behaviors facilitate programming of their self-assembly into supramolecular structures. Syntactomers are macromolecules that consist of a collection of "letters" (monomers that can either be amino acids, nucleotides or synthetic components) are arranged within "words" (repeat units), which are in turn arranged by following a syntax - defined as the arrangement of words - into "phrases" (macromolecules). A new paradigm for macromolecular design will lead to new materials to be used as drug delivery vehicles, actuators, nanofibers, switchable membranes, functional connectors, and scaffolds for mineralization, tissue implants or 3-D cell culture.

The Triangle CEMRI will coordinate establishment and access to specialized materials research facilities across the Research Triangle. Its researchers will have access to a global network of research resources, including several national laboratories and laboratories in Europe and Asia. Innovation and technology transfer will be enhanced by the Triangle CEMRI activities aimed at facilitating and catalyzing interactions with both large and small industrial and non-profit commercialization and innovation partners. A comprehensive integration of training, educational and outreach activities will take advantage of the high level of scholarship in materials research and related areas in the Research Triangle area. The overarching goal of the Triangle CEMRI in education, training, and outreach is to infuse materials science, engineering and technology education with a new relevance, excitement and value to audiences ranging from G5-12 students, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, to the public sector.

* an NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Daniele Finotello
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Duke University
United States
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