Controlling Colloidal Gels for Novel Sustainable Materials

Transformative advances in product formulation are required to meet the global demand for sustainability. Colloidal gels – complex, out-of-equilibrium soft matter systems – are characterized by their arrested dynamics and open network structure. These networks are comprised of micron-sized particles suspended in a fluid medium and their organization allows the system to possess both fluid- and solid-like qualities, and even self-healing qualities. This makes colloidal gels ideally suited as core components in many industrial formulations, including building materials (e.g., cement), energy materials (e.g., batteries and fuel cells), personal care and food products, and drug delivery formulations.

Presently, obtaining structures with desired properties (e.g., mechanical, thermal, or electrical) is a delicate balance of thermodynamic parameters, quenching kinetics, and processing. As a consequence, industrial processing still relies on trial and error. Recent advances in colloidal-gel physics, strongly imply that the rational design of colloidal gel properties is within reach. This design is based on tuning gel microstructure via external stimuli, such as shear flow, ultrasound, and magnetic/electric fields. CoCoGel will push the current academic state of the art in controlling gel microstructure and bring it into industrial practice. 


CoCoGel aims to facilitate the rational design of gel structures. We will identify relevant industrial formulations and derive model systems that capture the salient colloidal physics to be studied. Our activities are summarized in three themes:

Shear Flow: We aim to link structural changes due to shear with mechanical properties, combining rheometry with microscopy and scattering. Additional understanding will be acquired by numerical simulations.
External Fields We will consider the effect of electric and magnetic fields on the structure and properties of colloidal gels. We will also explore the biomedical application of these gels for cancer treatment and tissue engineering.
Ultrasound: We will probe effects of ultrasound on the gel structure using a combination of advanced imaging techniques and computer simulations. Applications involve nanocomposite electrolytes and personal care products.

Based on the fundamental understanding gained, we will address industrial problems and identify products across different sectors where an improved performance and/or reduced environmental impact can be achieved.


Key to the success of our Doctoral Network is extending of existing collaborations, as well as the training of a new generation of researchers with both multi-disciplinary expertise in soft materials and practical experience engaging with industry. These will drive further sustainable development over a wide range of European industries and push the field forward both in academia and industry