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Hierarchical Assembly

Hierarchical Assembly

Seeks to understand the impact of material building block structure and environment or interface architecture on the formation of functional materials, and thus emphasizes topics related to the dynamics of assembly processes and the response and reorganization of these systems to local and global perturbations. 

The Hierarchical Assembly Scientific Theme at the CNMS seeks to coordinate and leverage research aimed at exploiting the impact of material building block structure, environment, and interface architecture, on the formation of functional materials. This theme emphasizes topics focused on decoding the dynamics of assembly processes and the response and reorganization of hierarchically assembled systems to local and global perturbations. This work drives the development of new capabilities in areas that include:  building block synthesis and tuning (i.e., synthesis of polymers with complex topologies, fabrication of nanostructures with well-defined structure and surface energy), shaping of chemically and topologically complex interfaces, developing dynamic multimodal characterization tools that operate in situ, and refining simulation and modeling tools to guide experiment and interpret extracted data. These capabilities are tied together through a tightly woven work flow and data analytics framework.

The overarching goal of the Hierarchical Assembly theme is to apply the impact of material building block structure, environment, and interface architecture to the formation, response, and evolution of materials.  Understanding the role of these factors in driving key steps in material formation is essential to the predictive design of new classes of nanostructured and responsive materials. In parallel to, and intertwined with, the development of direct-write techniques and conventional nanofabrication processes that actively shape or form materials into specific geometries, as described in the Directed Nanoscale Transformations theme, in this effort we emphasize the need to develop strategies that can be used to ‘catch’ or drive materials into desired states over extended length scales. These strategies center on tuning local enthalpic and entropic interactions in combination with non-equilibrium processes as a means of achieving desired structural and morphological properties that ultimately translate into targeted material function and dynamic responsive behavior. This theme addresses the specific aims of:

Aim 1 - Decoding Dynamics in Material Assembly by focusing on pushing the limits of  techniques for characterizing and visualizing the dynamics of ensemble molecular, polymeric, and hybrid inorganic/organic material assembly and response in situ.  This work will capture the coordinated motion and reorganization of soft and hybrid material components with the objective of forming assemblies capable of responding to external stimuli in a predictable and tunable manner.

Aim 2- Employing Responsive Higher Order Systems by unraveling the links between structure and dynamic transitions in hierarchical and hybrid material system architectures such as polymer and hybrid organic/inorganic thin films. This control will be garnered by building on the development of in situ measurement tools refined in aim 1 and be combined with theory/simulation/data analysis that can be used to characterize and understand advanced polymer and polymer hybrid materials that respond to changing environments and stimuli.

Aim 3 - Advances in the Creation and Utilization of Evolving Materials will be achieved by developing ‘fluid,’ loosely coupled, macromaterials (i.e., lipid bilayers and copolymer membrane mimics) that undergo dynamic reorganization and shifts in their steady state structure as they are driven repeatedly away from equilibrium.