Rigoberto Hernandez of Georgia Institute of Technology is supported by an award from the Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods program in the Chemistry Division to investigate the study of the microscopic dynamics within far-from-equilibrium colloidal suspensions and liquid crystals, and the implications on new approaches for the control and design of materials within driven colloidal suspensions. The study integrates computational and theoretical tools to characterize the complex dynamics of both the molecular systems undergoing chemical change and the nonequilibrium environments in which they function. Specific chemical systems (such as soft core-shell microgels, heterogeneously charged colloids, and assemblies of fd-virus particles) whose nonequilibrium dynamics can be directly tested and predicted by experiment will be used to guide the development and as platforms for future design.
Colloidal particles are used routinely as the basis for making new materials, for molecular delivery systems, and/or as agents to perform a function directly such as catalysis. Their characterization presents a challenge to physical chemists because these materials can be viewed either as a heterogeneous composition of molecular assemblies within a molecular solvent at the nanometer scale, or as an assembly of uniform macroparticles interacting in an effective uniform solvent at the micrometer scale. This duality has many consequences in terms of device characteristics and the requisite methods used to study them. Professor Hernandez and his research group are developing the theoretical and computational methods that are helping to resolve this interplay across length scales that will be indispensable in the molecule-based design of next-generation materials. The work is having a further broader impact through the extensive efforts by Professor Hernandez in public outreach activities for science and in programs for the recruitment and mentoring of students from under-represented minority groups into science.