News & Announcements

Research Triangle MRSEC faculty member, Orlin Velev (NCSU), presented a talk on Hydrogel-Based Bimimetic Devices and Soft Robotic Components Operating on Ionic and Microfluidic Principles at the Fall 2015 MRSEC Meeting in Boston, MA. This talk was also highlighted on the MRS Website

At this same conference, 5th year PhD student and RT-MRSEC Fellow, Sumeet Mishra, presented a talk, "Anisotropic Actuation of Elastomer Films Containing Chained Magnetic Nanoparticles", and received the gold PhD Award. MRS Graduate Student Awards are intended to honor and encourage graduate students whose academic achievements and current materials research display a high level of excellence and distinction. MRS seeks to recognize students of exceptional ability who show promise for significant future achievement in materials research. Selection is highly competitive and receiving a gold or silver award is certainly one that you can reflect upon with pride for many years to come. Many of the previous winners have moved on to highly distinguished careers, as well as to leadership positions within the Materials Research Society.

Sumeet studies in the group of Joseph Tracy, and in a project in collaboration with Michael Dickey and Orlin Velev. 

Their work can also be sited in the Nanoscale Journal through the Royal Society of Chemistry. Their article, "Selective and Directional Actuation of Elastomer Films Using Chained Magnetic Nanoparticles", has been accepted for publication. 


Soft robots can bend, walk and grip, but unlike their rigid counterparts, they can deform and bounce back into shape. In their recent publication in the journal ACS: Applied Materials & Interfaces, graduate student Gregory Gossweiler and MRSEC investigator Stephen Craig report a new way to make an elastic material for soft robots that changes color when it stretches. The color change might be used as camouflage or to indicate stress points, leading to a better robot design, but it also shows that the team has the capability to embed other chemical agents in the polymer that might be released on command, such as drugs, catalysts or enzymes.

Flexible, elastic, and soft robots under development could bridge the gap between traditional rigid robot movements and the more fluid, adaptable movements of animals and humans. These soft machines respond when they are pumped with gases or liquids. This inflation results in specific shape changes and desired movements. To impart more versatility to these devices, Stephen Craig and colleagues wanted to take advantage of the molecular changes that occur when a robot curls or twists.

The researchers incorporated color-changing compounds in their robots' material that are activated when stretched. This feature could allow a robot to camouflage itself while it moves. And, because the color change is most intense where the strain on the material is highest, it also can indicate where it's vulnerable to breaking.

Watch the robots walk and grip here.

Newly discovered genetic sequences will allow unprecedented control over assembly of protein structures. In their recent publication in Nature Materials, Research Triangle MRSEC professor Ashutosh Chilkoti and graduate fellow Felipe Garcia Quiroz created test motifs to identify the amino acid sequences that determine phase behavior in proteins. They demonstrate that proteins can be designed to exhibit tunable phase transitions, allowing significant control over assembly and disassembly processes. Read More

Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) and Duke University held a Joint Workshop in Neutron Science & Scattering on Friday, September 18, 2015 on Duke's main campus. George Truskey, Interim Dean of Engineering (Duke), and Alan Tennant, Chief Scientist, NScD (ORNL) welcomed approximately 55 faculty, students and staff from ORNL and the Triangle Universities. Larry Carin, Vice Provost for Research (Duke), also provided a lunchtime message. Discussions were valuable and will certainly foster new user proposals and collaborations between institutions. 

Presentation documents may be viewed as follows:

Gabrielle Boudreau: Becoming a Successful Neutron User

Brad O'Dell, NCSU: Graduate Science Opportunities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Olivier Delaire, ORNL: Neutron scattering investigations of atomic dynamics in energy materials

Bhuvnesh Bharti, NCSU: Neutron scattering as a tool to investigate amphiphile binding onto nanocurved interfaces

Thomas Barthel, Duke: Accurate T>0 response functions for strongly-correlated quasi-1D systems using DMRG

Terrence Oas, Duke: Using Small Angle X-ray Scattering to Study the Structure of a Staph Virulence Factor

Anuj Kapadia, Duke: Neutron Spectroscopic Imaging for Cancer Diagnosis

David Richardson, Duke: Where, exactly, are the non-polar hydrogens in proteins & nucleic acids?

Richard Spontak, NCSU: Small-Angle Scattering of Solvated Block Ionomers

Philippe Lorchat, UNC: Orientation order in polyelectrolyte solutions by SAXS and SANS