Research Topic

Designed Assembly in Soft Matter: From Colloids to Granular

About this Research Topic

Many soft matter systems consist of building blocks that are much larger than a single atom or molecule, and their properties can be relatively easily tailored by chemical or physical methods. This offers an extra axis of designability in the assembly of soft matter systems, which have been one of the major directions in soft matter community and shown great promise in the designed fabrication of functional materials.

The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together different visions of soft-matter scientists interested in designed assembly in soft matter systems of various length scales from colloidal to granular systems.

The topics can be articulated into four main sub-categories:

1. Designed dynamic assembly of active matter
Active matter consists of particles capable of converting stored chemical or biological energy to drive their motion, and the system is intrinsically out of equilibrium. Because of the non-equilibrium feature of active matter, a number of strikingly new collective assemblies, never found in equilibrium systems, have been observed in systems of active matter, which suggests new possibilities of designing the special dynamics of active matter for the fabrication of functional materials that cannot be realized by using equilibrium methods.

2. Designed assembly of DNA coated colloids
Due to the programmability and high selectivity of DNA-mediated interactions, DNA coated colloids have emerged as a powerful and general platform for controlling inter-particle interactions. Because of the central dogma “interaction-structure-functionality”, this control is now allowing the design of self-assembled materials with nanoscale features and unprecedented complexity, opening the door to a plethora of previously unreachable properties of technological interest, ranging from the control of light in photonic structures to programmable biological interactions for biosensing and targeted drug delivery.

3. Designed packing of anisotropic colloids
Dense packings of colloidal particles can serve as structural models for crystalline and glassy states of condensed matter, complex liquids, and granular materials. Recently studies have demonstrated that the overall packing characteristics, including density, degree of order, symmetry can be significantly affected by the shape and symmetry of the constitute particles. It is also found that certain exotic packing states of colloids possess the remarkable property of hyperuniformity, characterized by isotropic local structures as in a glass and complete suppression of infinite-wave-length density fluctuations as in a crystal. Such packing states are endowed with many unique and novel physical properties with great potential applications. It is therefore highly desirable to tailor and systematically design the constitute colloidal particles to achieve targeted packing states.

4. Designed assembly of granular materials
Granular matter is assembly of macroscopic particles, which by nature are athermal and out-of-equilibrium systems. In application, certain specific mechanical properties of granular materials are desired. By systematically investigating the relationship between the macroscopic mechanical response and the microscopic particle shape, size distribution and friction properties, some of recent studies have paved the way in systematic designing granular assembly of desired mechanical properties based on chosen microscopic building blocks.


Keywords: designed assembly, colloids, DNA functionalized particles, active matter, granular materials


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Many soft matter systems consist of building blocks that are much larger than a single atom or molecule, and their properties can be relatively easily tailored by chemical or physical methods. This offers an extra axis of designability in the assembly of soft matter systems, which have been one of the major directions in soft matter community and shown great promise in the designed fabrication of functional materials.

The goal of this Research Topic is to bring together different visions of soft-matter scientists interested in designed assembly in soft matter systems of various length scales from colloidal to granular systems.

The topics can be articulated into four main sub-categories:

1. Designed dynamic assembly of active matter
Active matter consists of particles capable of converting stored chemical or biological energy to drive their motion, and the system is intrinsically out of equilibrium. Because of the non-equilibrium feature of active matter, a number of strikingly new collective assemblies, never found in equilibrium systems, have been observed in systems of active matter, which suggests new possibilities of designing the special dynamics of active matter for the fabrication of functional materials that cannot be realized by using equilibrium methods.

2. Designed assembly of DNA coated colloids
Due to the programmability and high selectivity of DNA-mediated interactions, DNA coated colloids have emerged as a powerful and general platform for controlling inter-particle interactions. Because of the central dogma “interaction-structure-functionality”, this control is now allowing the design of self-assembled materials with nanoscale features and unprecedented complexity, opening the door to a plethora of previously unreachable properties of technological interest, ranging from the control of light in photonic structures to programmable biological interactions for biosensing and targeted drug delivery.

3. Designed packing of anisotropic colloids
Dense packings of colloidal particles can serve as structural models for crystalline and glassy states of condensed matter, complex liquids, and granular materials. Recently studies have demonstrated that the overall packing characteristics, including density, degree of order, symmetry can be significantly affected by the shape and symmetry of the constitute particles. It is also found that certain exotic packing states of colloids possess the remarkable property of hyperuniformity, characterized by isotropic local structures as in a glass and complete suppression of infinite-wave-length density fluctuations as in a crystal. Such packing states are endowed with many unique and novel physical properties with great potential applications. It is therefore highly desirable to tailor and systematically design the constitute colloidal particles to achieve targeted packing states.

4. Designed assembly of granular materials
Granular matter is assembly of macroscopic particles, which by nature are athermal and out-of-equilibrium systems. In application, certain specific mechanical properties of granular materials are desired. By systematically investigating the relationship between the macroscopic mechanical response and the microscopic particle shape, size distribution and friction properties, some of recent studies have paved the way in systematic designing granular assembly of desired mechanical properties based on chosen microscopic building blocks.


Keywords: designed assembly, colloids, DNA functionalized particles, active matter, granular materials


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

09 January 2021 Manuscript
08 February 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

09 January 2021 Manuscript
08 February 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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