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Recent Program Highlights

Researchers at UPenn investigate the fracture behavior of disordered polymer-infiltrated nanoparticle films (PINFs). Here, the extent of polymer confinement in PINFs was tuned over three orders of magnitude NPs of varying size and polymers with varying molecular weight. The results show that brittle, low molecular weight (MW) polymers can significantly toughen NP packings, and this toughening effect becomes less pronounced with increasing NP size. 

UPenn researchers explored the potential energy landscapes of three different glassy and glass-forming model systems in simulation; discovering that the lowest energy glassy states of the system have an unexpected arrangement in high-dimensional configuration space.  Specifically, rather than being randomly scattered and separated by steep and tall energy barriers (akin to the lowest points in an Alpine landscape), the states were arranged into quasi-one-dimensional clusters, crumpled into a fractal shape, with only small barriers between them (akin to the low-lying points along the floor of the Grand Canyon). 

Granular hydrogels are jammed assemblies of hydrogel microparticles (i.e., “microgels”) widely explored in biomedical applications due to promising features such as shear-thinning to permit injectability and inherent porosity for cellular interactions. One area where this is particularly promising is in 3D printing. 

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