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IRG-1 Team Identifies Failure Signatures in Disordered Solids

In a paper published in Science, a team of faculty from IRG-1 (Rearrangements and Softness in Disordered Solids) identified fundamental new connections between microscopic structure and dynamic rearrangements in glassy materials. In this truly interdisciplinary and multi-scale work, the team tested new ideas about “softness” in 15 different experiments and simulations spanning materials whose constituent size spans 7 orders of magnitude, and whose mechanical stiffness spans 13 orders of magnitude.

Penn News Summary

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Principal of Condensed Matter: In Honor of Tom Lubensky

A special symposium, entitled ‘Principal of Condensed Matter: In Honor of Tom Lubensky’, took place at the LRSM November 3 and 4, 2017. Tom is a long-time and current member of the LRSM-MRSEC, and he is one of Penn’s leading theoretical physicists. He was awarded the APS Buckley Prize and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, in part for his foundational contributions to soft condensed matter physics. The symposium featured lectures from fifteen of this field’s elite from all over the world leading off with a Quasi-crystal talk by Paul Steinhardt (Princeton), a former Penn faculty and LRSM member, and ending with an exciting talk about characterizing disorder by Paul Chaikin (NYU), a former graduate student, post-doc, and professor at Penn. In between were more speakers including Tom’s son, David, who presented new research in biophysics. The symposium drew well over 100 scientists including many former students, post-docs, collaborators, and friends. The symposium dinner was held at The Study in University City on Saturday evening. Details of the event can be found at  http://www.lrsm.upenn.edu/event/tomfest/

news release

Celebrating the Life and Contributions of an LRSM Founding Father

Approximately 75 colleagues gathered for an all-day memorial to celebrate the life and contributions of LRSM Founding Father, Elias (Eli) Burstein, who, along with Bob Maddin, Robert Hughes, and Norm Hixson, was the driving force in establishing the first academic, interdisciplinary materials lab in the USA in 1960 at Penn, and since then, the LRSM has garnered continuous center funding through 2023. The symposium event was held Friday, October 6, 2017, and featured stories about Eli’s life and scientific achievements from his students and post-docs, faculty colleagues, current and former LRSM directors, and family friends.  The event concluded with a dinner in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology attended by Eli’s wife, Rena, and family. Eli was a man of great stature in the physics community, both at Penn and throughout the world. He died in his 100th year on June 17, 2017.

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LRSM Awarded 2017-23 NSF Materials Research Science & Engineering Center (MRSEC)

The Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM) has been awarded a six-year, $22.6 million center grant from the National Science Foundation to support LRSM’s work in cutting-edge materials. The new MRSEC, one of eight selected nationwide, provides crucial support for LRSM’s education and outreach missions, its shared experimental facilities, and the research of three new interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs).

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Lisa Tran Takes Fifth Place in the Nikon Small World Competition

This video is of cholesteric liquid crystal double emulsions, with water in the inner and outer phases, and cholesteric liquid crystal in the middle phase. The inner water phase has excess salt, which causes the emulsion to swell over time, thinning out the liquid crystal shell. Surfactant is added into the outer water phase, and as the surfactant absorbs onto the liquid crystal-water interface, the cholesteric responds to the surfactant by forming stripes on its surface. The stripes continue to evolve as the shell thins due to the emulsion swelling.

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Collaboration demonstrates a new amorphous packing of organic molecules

Stable glasses, disordered solids, are prepared by depositing molecules from a vapor phase onto a cold substrate. Stable glasses are typically birefringent, meaning that the index of refraction of light is different in the directions parallel and normal to the substrate. In most systems this is a result of molecules aligning in a particular direction as they condensate from the vapor phase into a deep glassy state. As such, if a molecule is spherically shaped, one would not expect to observe birefringence.

In a new study, Penn researchers Zahra Fakhraai, Patrick Walsh, James Kikkawa, and Joseph Subotnik designed a spherically shaped molecule and demonstrated that despite its round shape, the molecule can produce birefringent glasses upon vapor deposition. Through a series of experiments, graduate students Tianyi Liu and Annemarie Exarhos demonstrated that the birefringence in this system is due to the layer by layer nature of the deposition that allows molecules to pack more tightly in the direction normal to the surface during the vapor deposition. The denser the glass, the higher the value of birefringence. This process can be controlled by changing the substrate temperature that controls the degree of densification. This novel amorphous packing provides an opportunity to reveal fundamental properties of glasses at low energy states, a long standing question in solid state physics. This study was funded by National Science Foundation grants DMR-11-20901, DMR-1206270, CHE-1152488 and DMREF-1628407.

news release

LRSM Science Camp Expands Opportunities for Philadelphia Middle Schoolers

Since 2011, 7th grade students from Girard College, a boarding school for low-income students from single-parent homes, have spent a week at the LRSM learning about science, technology, engineering, and materials. This summer, for the first time, students from the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf joined the camp. In addition to science and college exposure, this new partnership created novel opportunities for students from both schools to form friendships across lines of difference.

news release

Alison Sweeney Identifies How Squid Have Evolved to See in Dim Ocean Water

Alison Sweeney, Paul Heiney, postdoc Jing Cai and graduate students James Townsend and Tom Dodson of the School of Arts & Sciences have provided a detailed look into how self-assembled lenses allow squid to see in the dim waters of the ocean. This may one day allow researchers to understand the fundamental principles of self-assembly and to engineer better nanomaterials.

press release

Ultra-Small-Angle to Wide-Angle Dual Source X-ray Scattering Instrument for SEF

The X-ray scattering shared experimental facility (SEF) within the LRSM is about to undergo a dramatic transformation via purchase of a Xeuss 2.0 from Xenocs.  Briefly, the new instrument provides structural information at both high and low spatial resolution across a wide range of length scales (0.09 to 600 nm) and thus facilitates study of hierarchical structures in a wide range of hard and soft materials. Further, by incorporating dual sources (Cu and Mo), two solid-state detectors, a stage for grazing incidence, and various sample environments for in situ and operando studies, we anticipate that the impact of this new instrumentation on local materials research and education will be immense. The instrument will advance research on the synthesis, fabrication, processing, and assembly of a wide range of materials systems, and will provide crucial insight about structure relevant to their chemical, electrical, magnetic, mechanical, optical, thermal, and transport properties. The facility will also be integrated into courses at Penn, the outreach activities of the LRSM, and workshops and online training materials are planned to promote its broad use by beginners and to fully develop expert-users. 

This major investment was made possible by a recent NSF – MRI grant award (PI:  Yodh, co-PIs:  Detsi, Fakhraai, Heiney and Winey), with matching funds from the LRSM and Penn Engineering.  In addition, the detector will be further improved by resources derived from an ARO-DURIP grant (PI:  Winey)

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Penn Collaboration Produces Surprising Insights Into the White Spots on Butterfly Wings

A collaboration between biologists and materials scientists at the University of Pennsylvania is yielding new insights into the whiteness on the wings of the “skipper butterfly”, a dusk-active and shade-inhabiting Costa Rican rain forest butterfly. They identify two types of whiteness: angle-dependent and angle-independent. They speculate that the biological functions and evolution of Carystoides spot patterns, scale structures, and their varying whiteness are adaptations to the butterfly’s low light habitat and to airflow experienced on the wing base versus wing tip during flight.
 
Note that there is no pigment for “whiteness.” Indeed, structural whiteness is technologically important in systems ranging from power efficient computer displays, to sensors, to energy efficient buildings, windows, and vehicles.
news release

In Memory of Elias ‘Eli’ Burstein

The LRSM lost one of its most distinguished members, Elias ‘Eli’ Burstein, on Saturday, June 17, 2017.  He was 99 years old, only three months short of a century. Eli, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Penn since 1958, was the grand old man of the Penn materials community. It was he, along with Bob Hughes, Chemistry, Bob Madden, Metallurgy, and Norm Hixson, Associate Dean of Engineering, who founded the LRSM in 1960, as an academically unique, interdisciplinary materials research laboratory. They obtained the first grants for the LRSM from the Department of Defense, and starting in 1972, the materials center has garnered funding support continuously from the National Science Foundation. Eli graduated from Brooklyn College in 1938 and took graduate courses at MIT and Catholic University, but his doctoral studies were interrupted by WWII, although he subsequently obtained four honorary doctorates. He retired in 1988 as Mary Amanda Wood professor of physics and remained active as professor emeritus until he died.

Eli was extremely prolific in a career that spanned seven decades. He did it all. He worked on fundamental studies of infrared photoconductivity in silicon and germanium, and he carried out ground-breaking research on semiconductors, insulators, metals, and two-dimensional electron plasmas in semiconductors. Much of this work improved our understanding of optical properties in the solid state. In his later years at Penn, Eli was known for his work on SERS, Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering; these SERS ideas continue to influence researchers in present-day metamaterials. Finally, near the end of his career, Eli was deeply engaged in understanding optical properties of fullerenes (buckyballs) and other carbon structures.

Eli trained well over 40 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom have had very distinguished careers of their own. He also encouraged dissemination of scientific knowledge by organizing international meetings, conferences, symposia, workshops, and through the literature as Founding Editor of the journal Solid State Communications, being editor-in-chief 1963-1992. Among his many honors, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1979), and he received the John Price Wetherill Medal from the Franklin Institute, the Frank Isakson Prize from the American Physical Society, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. He was also a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the American Association for Advancement of Science.

At the LRSM, we have enjoyed his company at our annual “Burstein Lecture,” named in his honor. Eli is survived by his wife of 73 years, Rena, three daughters, Joanna Mitro, Sara Donna, and Mimi Burstein, and grandchildren, Graham and Susanna Mitro.  He will be missed.

If you are interested in learning more about Eli’s life, please explore the following links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elias_Burstein#Honors
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/25/science/elias-burstein-dies-physicist.html

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18th Mid-Atlantic Soft Matter (MASM)

LRSM co-sponsored the 18th Mid-Atlantic Soft Matter (MASM) meeting at Penn, May 19, 2017. The meeting hosted local invited speakers from Georgetown University, Lehigh University, the University of Delaware, and the University of Pennsylvania. It also featured more than 60 contributed sound-bite talks largely from students and post-docs in the mid-Atlantic region. Doug Durian and Rob Riggleman organized the workshop.

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LRSM Co-founder Dr. Robert E. Hughes Passes at Age 92

Prof. Robert E. (Bob) Hughes, passed away on April 2, 2017, age 92, at his home in Virginia after a long and distinguished career. We knew him best as professor of Chemistry at Penn, from 1953-64 during which time he was instrumental in establishing the LRSM in 1960. Following DARPA’s request for proposals for an interdisciplinary materials research program in 1959, after the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik, he was appointed to a committee that included Robert Maddin, Metallurgy, Elias Burstein, Physics, and chaired by Norm Hixson, Associate Dean of Engineering, to write the successful grant proposal that funded the LRSM. One of the most controversial decisions to be made was that of naming the lab. Burstein wanted ‘condensed matter physics’ in the title and Maddin wanted ‘structure of materials’ in the title. Bob Hughes solved the problem by giving it the everlasting and somewhat grandiose title, the Laboratory for Research on the ‘Structure’ of ‘Matter’, thus satisfying both. He returned to the LRSM in 2012 to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lab and stated that he always loved his time at the University of Pennsylvania. On leaving Penn in 1964, he returned to his alma mater, Cornell, where he was director of their Materials Science Center from 1968 to 1974. Subsequently, he became the Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 1974 to 1976 and President of Associated Universities Incorporated (AUI), which administered Brookhaven National Laboratory, from 1980 to 1997. Further details of his career can be found in his obituary at http://www.loudountimes.com/news/obituary/dr._robert_e._hughes

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Penn Engineers Report First Colloidal Crystals with Diamond Structure

A long-standing goal in material science is to create a material with a complete photonic bandgap, in which light would propagate in a manner analogous to the flow of electrons in a semiconductor. This requires the creation of a very challenging three-dimensional microstructure: an ordered periodic array of highly refractive sub-micron particles arranged so as to mimic the structure of carbon atoms in a diamond crystal. It has long been an elusive goal to form such structures by self-assembly, for example using the ability of colloidal microspheres to spontaneously form into colloidal crystals. Penn researchers John Crocker and Talid Sinno lead an NSF funded project that forms novel colloidal crystals from polymer microspheres covered in interacting DNA strands, and which draws upon technology originally developed by an earlier MRSEC project. Their graduate student Yifan Wang serendipitously discovered the diamond structure crystals in recent experiments, and the results are published in Nature Communications. While significant challenges remain to turn the discovery into an bandgap material, self-assembling the diamond crystals is a significant breakthrough. The occurrence of the diamond crystals is unexpected theoretically, and forming them in simulation has also proven elusive; the team conjectures that the crystals form via the transformation of another, yet undiscovered parent crystal.

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Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day 2017

This year marked the 7th annual Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, held on February 4th, 2017. Through a collaboration between the Penn MRSEC and the Penn and Drexel University Materials Science departments, the day-long event promotes materials research to local K-9 students with tabletop demonstrations and workshops. In all more than 20 LRSM-affiliated graduate students & post-docs volunteered at the event, which draws over 1000 attendees each year.

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Quick News Links

  • Kathleen Stebe & Randy Kamien Study Geometry's Role in Cell Behavior news release
  • Lisa Tran & Randy Kamien Demonstrate How to Control Liquid Crystal Patterns news release
  • Daeyeon Lee and Kathleen Stebe Develop Filters That Use Nanoparticles to Prevent Slime Build-up news release
  • Alison Sweeney & Shu Yang Mimick Giant clams to Enhance Biofuel Production news release
  • Shu Yang and KIST Researchers Offer Insights Into Lightweight Material That Expands With Heat  news release
  • The LRSM and other Penn Departments Focus on Helping Colleagues in Puerto Rico  news release
  • Charlie Johnson, Ivan Dmochowski, Jeffery Saven and Others Use New Type of Graphene Sensor to Answer a Fundamental Nanotechnology Question  news release
  • Dennis Discher, and Team, Engineer Macrophages to Engulf Cancer Cells in Solid Tumors.  news release
  • Arjun Yodh Discovers Why Drying Liquid Crystal Drops Leave Unusual ‘Coffee Rings’.  news release
  • Alison Sweeney reveals new findings on how Hatchetfish scatter light for camouflage.  news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai and Yue Zhang Discover a Surprising Property of Glass Surfaces news release
  • Penn Researchers, Lead by Virgil Percec, Push the Limits of Organic Synthesis news release
  • Charlie Johnson, and other MRSEC Researchers, Are Among the First to Grow a Versatile Two-dimensional Material news release
  • Cherie Kagan & Christopher Murray, along with Nader Engheta & James Kikkawa, Demonstrate a ‘Hybrid Nanomanufacturing’ System news release
  • Andrea Liu Helps Solve a Decades-old Question About Glass Transitions news release
  • Tom Lubensky PNAS Paper to Describe Mysterious Rafts in Membranes news release
  • Virgil Percec, Dan Hammer, Paul Heiney, Michael Klein - Cubic Membranes Might Provide Defense of Sick Cells. news release
  • Robert Carpick & Ju Li, Contribute to New Understanding of Friction on Graphene. news release
  • Arjun Yodh Named AAAS Fellow for seminal contributions to the field of experimental soft condensed matter physics, especially in optical measurements and applications in biophysics. news release
  • Penn MRSEC Team Develop Nanoscale ‘Muscles’ Powered by DNA news release
  • Eleni Katifori Finds Straightforward Way to Model Growth of Vein Networks news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai & Robert Riggleman receive 3-year, $1.2 million NSF grant to study molecule packing in ultra-thin glass films news release
  • Philip Nelson explains how he teaches programming in physics class. article
  • Mark Licurse engages Girard College seventh graders in a week-long science program. news release & photos
  • Shu Yang and Randall Kamien Aim to Develop a Nanotech Garment news release
  • Marija Drndić lab builds and tests transistors inside a microscope. news release ACS Nano
  • Andrea Liu elected to the National Academy of Sciences. news release
  • Randy Kamien Wins Prestigious Award in Liquid Crystal Science news release
  • Virgil Percec Puts a New Twist on Chirality news release
  • Amish Patel Demystifies the ‘Dewetting’ Process news release
  • Shu Yang Receives Heilmeier Research Award news release
  • Russell Composto, Zahra Fakhraai, and Daeyeon Lee are leading an international collaboration on Shelter Science news release
  • Dennis Discher Elected to the National Academy of Medicine news release
  • LRSM Faculty, Charlie Johnson and Marija Drndic, awarded $2 million EFRIs for 2D Materials news release
  • Shu Yang group design material that could help diagnose concussions news release
  • Marija Drndić & Jeffery G. Saven Use Nanoscopic Pores to Investigate Protein Structure news release
  • Alison Sweeney - Diving Deep for Alternative Energy news release
  • Ritesh Agarwal & Eugene Mele with Sajal Dhara Discover New Chiral Property of Silicon, With Photonic Applications. news release
  • Dennis Discher and LRSM Collaborators garner Physical Sciences Oncology Center from NIH. news release
  • Former LRSM Student, Krishan L. Luthra, Pioneers a Materials Breakthrough after Decades of Research. read more
  • Kathleen Stebe, Shu Yang, and Randall Kamien: Liquid-crystal-based Compound Lenses That Work Like Insect Eyes news release
  • Virgil Percec Develops Custom Artificial Membranes to Study the Molecular Basis of Disease news release
  • Cherie Kagan & Paulo Arratia - Penn Engineering 2015 Teaching Awards news release
  • New soft matter topical group of the American Physical Society led by Randall Kamien read more
  • Gazette article on Charles Kane's discovery of topological insulators read article
  • Talid Sinno, John Crocker, Kathleen Stebe use 'Soft' Nanoparticles to Model Behavior at Interfaces news release
  • Arjun Yodh and Tom Lubensky Discovers New Liquid Crystal Configurations news release
  • Robert Carpick helps explain Anti-wear Motor Oil Additive properties. news release
  • Nader Engheta & Zahra Fakhraai Develop a Way of Making Light-bending 'Raspberry-like Metamolecules' news release
  • Shu Yang, with help from Daniel Gianola, develop 'smart' windows. news release
  • David Srolovitz Elected to National Academy Of Engineering news release
  • Zahra Fakhraai Awarded Sloan Fellowship news release
  • Penn Student Chronicles the Emergence of Interdisciplinary Science Through Architecture news release
  • A.T. Charlie Johnson & Ritesh Agarwal Develop New Technique for Making Graphene Competitor, Molybdenum Disulfide news release
  • Philip Nelson discusses the ins and outs of authoring a science textbook news release
  • Shu Yang Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow news release
  • Randall Kamien and Shu Yang, Outline Basic Rules for Construction With a Type of Origami [ news release
  • Charles Kane and Eugene Mele, Win Benjamin Franklin Medal news release
  • Douglas Durian (U Penn) in collaboration with Remi Dreyfus (CNRS/Solvay), as part of the joint Compass laboratory, have studied the morphology of fingered flow in laboratory models of sandy soils with hydrogel particle additives. view paper
  • Alison Sweeney Receives 2014 Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering read more
  • Arjun Yodh's group research helps uncover mechanism behind Solid-Solid Phase Transitions news release
  • Marija Drndic, Jennifer Lukes and Christopher Murray Study Nanocrystals by Passing Them Through Tiny Pores. news release
  • Virgil Percec, Paul Heiney: 'Onion' Vesicles for Drug Delivery news release C&EN article
  • Arjun Yodh Reappointed Director of LRSM read more
  • RET Alumn, Trey Smith receives Teacher as Hero Award read more
  • Charles Kane Elected to National Academy of Sciences news release
  • Philadelphia Science Festival 2014 read more
  • Science at the Sixers with Matthew Lohr and Daniel Beller highlight
  • Paulo Arratia - ‘Design for Failure’ With Model Material news release
  • Tom Lubensky and Charles Kane are "Stretching Boundaries" read more
  • Yodh, Lubensky and Collings are Turning Water Droplets Into ‘Gemstones’ news release PNAS link
  • Randy Kamien: Planting a Liquid-Crystal Garden read more press release
  • Shu Yang: superhydrophobic coatings watch video
  • Stebe, Kamien & Yang Add Another Tool in Their Directed Assembly Toolkit read more
  • Karen Winey: Computer Model That Will Help Design Flexible Touchscreenss read more
  • Dennis Discher and Stem Cell Differentiation read more
  • Kagan group ground breaking research published in ACS Nano demonstrates in-situ repair of nanocrystal surfaces allows large-area nanocrystal device fabrication in air and solvents. read article in ACS Nano
  • Research by Arjun Yodh of Physics and Astronomy indicates that stuttering may be caused by blood flow and hemodynamic changes in parts of the brain that control speech. read more
  • Dawn Bonnell, NBIC Director, appointed to Vice Provost for Research
  • MRSEC Team members win a $2 million, four-year NSF grant
  • Randy Kamien named Simons Investigator
  • Drndic: Advance in Nanotech Gene Sequencing Technique
  • LRSM-COMPLOIDS Workshop on Soft Matter April 17-19
  • Jennifer A. Lewis, "Printing Functional Materials" 3:00PM, LRSM Auditorium poster
  • Dennis Discher: "Protein 'Passport' That Help Nanoparticles Get Past Immune System" highlight
  • Dawn Bonnell Elected to National Academy of Engineering press release
  • Crocker & Sinno Use DNA to Make Crystals That Can Switch Configurations press release
  • Yodh, Durian groups Show Math Behind Growth of 'Coffee Rings' press release
  • Randall Kamien and Tom Lubensky, Help Create 'Recipe Book' for Building New Materials. press release
  • Penn team making waves with liquid crystals read more press release
  • SAS Interview with Charles Kane on Topological Insulators read article
  • LRSM Science Café @ World Cafe Live read more
  • Russell J. Composto receives NSF Special Creativity Award read more
  • Facilities for Nanotechnology in Philadelphia workshop 1.8.13 more info
  • Daeyeon Lee on crack-free nanoparticle films read more
  • Charles Kane Named Simons Investigator and Awarded $500,000 Grant read more
  • Watch video recorded during LRSM's 50th Celebration! watch the videos
  • Charles Kane Named Simons Investigator and Awarded $500,000 Grant read more
  • Kathleen Stebe Shows New Way of Assembling Particles Into Complex Structures read more
  • Daniel Hammer: Natural Plant Protein Into Drug-delivery Vehicles read more
  • Charlie Johnson Expands the Use of Carbon Nanotubes read more
  • Celebrating LRSM's 50th! read more
  • PREM Event: The New Science of Disordered Materials view poster
  • 2nd COMPASS Symposium March 28, 2012 view poster
  • Dennis Discher Elected to National Academy of Engineering read more
  • Philly Materials Science and Engineering Day, February 4, 2012 read more
  • Lukes and Winkelstein named 2012 Penn Fellows
  • Charlie Kane, 2012 Oliver E. Buckley Prize more
  • LRSM-NIMS Materials Workshop read more
  • Inside cover Advanced Materials, December 8, 2011 read article
  • LRSM awarded a six-year MRSEC grant from the NSF read more
  • Sensing membrane stress with near IR-emissive porphyrins