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Soft Nanotechnology in Europe: The SoftComp Network of Excellence

M. Noro
Unilever, UK

functional, soft matter, composites

The Network of Excellence (NoE) SoftComp aims to establish a knowledge base for an intelligent design of functional and nanoscale soft matter composites. The overriding concern of SoftComp is to overcome the fragmentation of the field among different materials classes (polymers, colloids, surfactants, membranes and biopolymers) and along disciplinary lines of physics, computational science, chemistry and applied biology. The network unites a sizeable fraction of the very best European research groups and connects these academic groups with some of Europe’s most important industries dealing with such materials.
The scientific objective of SoftComp is to obtain a detailed understanding of the physical mechanisms and properties of complex multicomponent soft matter composites. In many cases the properties that are desirable for industrial applications are realised by combining various kinds of traditional soft matter systems.
SoftComp is a network of 24 academic and 5 industrial partners with complementary fields of expertise. To ensure successful exploitation of the scientific results the network has a strong industrial participation. This includes several of the leading European companies.. Three research platforms combine the scientific resources of the network partners in the field of synthesis, experimental techniques and theory as well as numerical methods. Five network areas colloidal composites, self-assembling surfactant systems with additives, complex membranes, polymer based complex systems and gels and glasses from composite materials define the scientific arena.
Already in the first year one company (Unilever) launched a new task in Network Area 3 relating to the phase and permeability behaviour of the stratum corneum (outer skin) which was taken up with great interest by the academic partners. This example will be discussed more in detail.

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