Enhancing microgels potentialities: ultrasoftness and cultural heritage applications

Founding Body: MIUR
Total grant: € 145k
Principal Investigator: Emanuela Zaccarelli
Other participants:
Project duration: 2018-2021

The SOFTART project aims to explore the growing potentialities of microgels by focusing on two different aspects that are relevant for both fundamental and applied science. On one hand, it catches up with recent progress in particle synthesis, focusing on a novel class of microgels; on the other hand, it proposes to apply microgels in a yet unexplored context.
The project builds on the existing ERC action and will combine the MIMIC team with experimental competences at the host institution, the Institute for Complex Systems of the National Research Council (CNR ISC), based at the Department of Physics of the Sapienza University of Rome.

We will work on ultrasoft microgels that are synthesized in the absence of crosslinkers, thereby lacking the core-corona internal structure typical of standard PNIPAM microgels. They display an unusually low internal elasticity and may provide another example of soft matter behavior with no analogue in the atomic and molecular world, that will be crucial to test fundamental theories of the glass transition. We will perform their synthesis — in silico and in laboratory — and investigate the experimental and numerical characterization of their phase diagram, structure and dynamics. We will also investigate possible applications of microgels for cultural heritage preservation, through synergic efforts, again involving theoretical, numerical and experimental competences of a large group of researchers based at the host institution. The project will benefit from collaborations with Tor Vergata University and also with the “Istituto Centrale per il Restauro e la Conservazione del Patrimonio Archivistico e Librario”, ICRCPAL, of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism.