Many modern materials such as foams, gels and liquid crystals cannot be described with rigid models or explained by theories.
Therefore, new clever methods and new ideas are used to study "soft matter", anything between solid and liquid.
How do solid particles behave in dispersion and colloids, why can plastics conduct electricity and how do adhesives
glue more strongly? How are biomaterials like wood, bones or brain tissue composed?
When working on organic molecules, fats and intelligent membranes, physicists collaborate more and more with biologists, chemists,
materials scientists and engineers. Together these disciplines open the way to new products: dyes, plastics, drugs, food additives,
scrolling displays and textiles.
The materials that are meant by the term "soft matter" are at first sight quite different, but they have three important
things in common:
1. In soft matter, the molecules form a much less ordered structure than atoms and molecules in the crystal lattice of a solid.
Yet, they are not as disordered as in a gas. Soft materials are no real liquids either, but liquid components can contribute to their
2. The structures in soft matter are flexible, but still stable.
3. Soft matter can form supramolecular structures spontaneously by self organisation. Without this especially interesting
property no natural organisms could form and live.
Synchrotron radiation allows a thorough characterisation of the structure and dynamics of soft matter. Not only conventional
X-ray diffraction is used, but a wide range of methods, from small angle scattering up to infrared-microscopy and
Source: Welt der Physik