Contact person:
Javier Sotres Prieto
  • Swedish Research Council
Project members:
Collaborators and other project members:
  • Juan Francisco Gonzalez Martinez (Technical University of Cartagena – Spain)
  • Philipp Gutfreund (Institut Laue-Langevin – France)
Time frame:
01 January 2022 - 31 December 2025
Research environment :
Research subject:

About the project

The study of mechanically confined soft materials is central to understanding interactions that lead to adhesion, lubrication, and colloidal stability. Force measurements have long been able to describe the potential that exists between various coated surfaces, but it is only more recently that scattering techniques, particularly neutron reflectometry, have permitted the study of soft-matter layers under confinement. Specifically, the recent development of a confinement cell consisting of a solid surface confined by an expanding flexible film has addressed key factors that have hampered these investigations for a long time. Recently, the applicants improved this design with the possibility to shear the confined surfaces. However, while these sample environments constitute a breakthrough for structural investigations of mechanically challenged soft matter systems, there are still significant challenges ahead.

In this project, we will improve the current prototype by allowing the application of shear under pressures (<1bar) of relevance for very thin soft matter films e.g., protein and polymer monolayers. Additionally, we will implement the possibility for tribological measurements in situ during scattering experiments, so that it will be possible to relate structure to e.g., lubrication performance. Finally, we will prove the potential of the developed instrument. For this, we will use it to investigate the mechanisms underlying mucin boundary lubrication.