News & meetings

The PSCM organizes seminars by onsite and external scientist. It also contributes to the organization of larger workshops and conferences. This section lists recent and upcoming events.

[Webinar] Liquid Foams: From Basic Principles over Practical Aspects to Future Perspectives
by Cosima Stubenrauch
22 July 2021
Part 1: What is the difference between foamability and foam stability? How do liquid fraction, foam volume, and bubble size evolve as a function of ti...
Part 1: What is the difference between foamability and foam stability? How do liquid fraction, foam volume, and bubble size evolve as a function of time for stable and unstable foams, respectively? How can I study foams reproducibly? Under which circumstances can I compare the properties of foams generated with different surfactants? The first part of this presentation will answer these questions! Part 2: Although it is known that foaming a surfactant solution results in a depletion of the surfactant in the bulk phase, this effect is often overlooked and has never been quantified. Thus we studied the influence of surfactant depletion on foam properties. We measured the surfactant loss of the bulk solution via surface tension measurements and then compared our data with the results of purely geometric considerations. Under conditions where depletion plays a role our approach can also be used to estimate the bubble size of a foam of known volume by measuring the surfactant concentration in the bulk solution after foaming [1]. Part 3: Do intermolecular H-bonds between surfactant head groups play a role for foam stability? To answer this question we looked at the foam stability of various surfactants with C12 alkyl chains but different head groups and we found that stable foams are only generated when hydrogen bonds can form between the head groups [2,3]. Formation of hydrogen bonds between surfactant head groups – i.e. of a “hydrogen belt” at the interface – gives rise to a short-range attractive interaction that may render the surfactant layer more rigid (in the sense that the mobility of the molecules is restricted) and more elastic (in the sense that deformations can be counteracted). We expect an enormous impact on the future design of surfactants which must take intersurfactant H-bonds into account![1]  On how Surfactant Depletion during Foam Generation Influences Foam Properties, J. Boos, W. Drenckhan, C. Stubenrauch, Langmuir, 2012, 28, 9303-9310 [2]  On How Hydrogen Bonds Affect Foam Stability (Review), C. Stubenrauch, M. Hamann,  N. Preisig, V. Chauhan, R. Bordes, Adv. Colloid Interf. Sci., 2017, 247, 435-443 [3]  Intersurfactant H-bonds between Head Groups of n-Dodecyl-D-Maltoside at the Air-Water Interface, M. Kanduč, E. Schneck, C. Stubenrauch, JCIS, 2021, 586, 588-595Register here. 
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[Webinar] Physical mechanisms of the interaction between lipid-based membranes in aqueous environments
by Emanuel Schneck
15 July 2021
In the congested environment of cells and tissues, the interaction between the surfaces of biomolecular assemblies -- notably biomembranes -- is of pa...
In the congested environment of cells and tissues, the interaction between the surfaces of biomolecular assemblies -- notably biomembranes -- is of paramount importance for numerous biological processes. This lecture reviews various mechanisms underlying the interaction between lipid-based membranes in their aqueous (physiological) surroundings. The lecture covers van der Waals interactions, electric double-layer forces, solvent- and solute-mediated forces, as well as undulation-induced forces and forces associated with the conformation of membrane-associated polymers. Experimental aspects as well as continuum-theoretical descriptions and atomistic computer simulations are discussed.Register here.
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[Webinar] AFM: working principles, modes of operation and applications
by Igor Siretanu
8 July 2021
The atomic force microscope (AFM) is an invaluable tool not only to obtain high (sub-nanometer)-resolution topographical images, but also to determine...
The atomic force microscope (AFM) is an invaluable tool not only to obtain high (sub-nanometer)-resolution topographical images, but also to determine certain physical properties of specimens, such as stiffness and adhesion, surface charge and even chemical surface composition. The AFM has the advantage over other forms of microscopy in terms of spatial and temporal resolution and possibility of imaging almost any type of surface, including polymers, ceramics, composites, glass, and biological samples. In addition to the wide range of applications, from materials science to biology, this technique can be operated in a number of environments as long as the specimen is attached to a surface, including ambient air, ultra-high vacuum, and, most importantly for biology, in liquids. This lecture will first introduce the viewer to the fundamental aspect of AFM. Then, basic principles of operation of an AFM, the associated instrumentation and methodology; and the fundamental aspects how this high-resolution surface typography images and maps of surface forces can be obtained will be discussed. Main AFM operation modes; pro and cons of each mode, as well as representative results from the literature highlighting a variety of application areas will be also shown. Finally, some representative AFM artefacts and other examples of the applications of AFM imaging and force spectroscopy will be illustrated.Register here.
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[Webinar] Thermodynamics of interfaces
by Antonio Stocco
24 June 2021
In this lecture, I will first introduce some concepts related to the definition of an interface, long range surface forces, disjoining pressure and ad...
In this lecture, I will first introduce some concepts related to the definition of an interface, long range surface forces, disjoining pressure and adsorption. In the second part, I will discuss some aspects of the physics of wetting. Energetics of: a) liquid drops on solid substrates and b) solid particles at liquid interfaces, will be described in different length scales: from the macroscopic down to the nanoscale. Finally, I will describe the stability of a liquid foam, considered as an interfacial material rather than a gas in liquid dispersion.Register here.
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[Webinar] Surfactant Self-Assembly – Fundamentals and Applications
by Michael Gradzielski
17 June 2021
Self-assembly is a ubiquitous phenomenon in science, being observed in solution for surfactants, copolymers, or proteins – and, of course, in combin...
Self-assembly is a ubiquitous phenomenon in science, being observed in solution for surfactants, copolymers, or proteins – and, of course, in combinations thereof with other colloidal systems. Accordingly, self-assembly is at the heart of many important scientific processes, such as detergency, formulations in pharmacy or cosmetics, biomembranes, biological systems, etc. Therefore, it is very important to understand the principles of self-assembly and especially how they are related to the molecular composition of the systems and how this translates into the properties of such systems. In this lecture this will be discussed for the case of surfactants, which can become organised in the form of small spherical micelles or worm-like micelles, where the latter may exhibit several orders of magnitude higher viscosity and viscoelastic properties. Another example concerns the solubilisation of hydrophobic molecules in aqueous solutions, which is important for instance for cleaning or tertiary oil recovery, but also for rendering otherwise insoluble drug molecules soluble. The lecture will deal with the basic principles of surfactant self-assembly and use this understanding to rationalise some simple applications of surfactants.Register here. 
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[Webinar] Introduction to classical particle-based simulations of soft matter
by Ana Celia Vila Verde
10 June 2021
This lecture will introduce the listeners to Monte Carlo and Molecular dynamics simulation methods using classical energy functions, and the most comm...
This lecture will introduce the listeners to Monte Carlo and Molecular dynamics simulation methods using classical energy functions, and the most commonly used algorithms to perform free energy calculations. Emphasis will be given to the concepts that a non-specialist must have to be able to critically read a report of a simulation study.Register for the webinar.
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[Webinar] Direct measurement of free energy derivatives: Calorimetry and Volumetry
by Giuseppe Lazzara
3 June 2021
The lecture will be focused on the direct measurement of thermodynamic properties that are free energy derivatives. In particular the partial molar qu...
The lecture will be focused on the direct measurement of thermodynamic properties that are free energy derivatives. In particular the partial molar quantities will be described. Based on some case studies, we’ll explore the relevance in colloidal systems about methods to access directly thermodynamic quantities. In particular, the dilemma on enthalpy changes in supramolecular aggregates: van’t Hoff vs direct methods will be described. Volumetrv analysis of complex systems will be presented based also on its predictive ability toward pressure effect. Experimental tips and case studies will help the audience in a proper planning of measurements.Register here.
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Soft Matter Café by Giacomo Corucci
A neutron reflectivity approach to investigate factors regulating the substrate specificities of phospholipases
3 June 2021
Phospholipases (PLAs) are lipolytic enzymes that hydrolyze phospholipid substrates at specific ester bonds. They are widespread in nature and play ver...
Phospholipases (PLAs) are lipolytic enzymes that hydrolyze phospholipid substrates at specific ester bonds. They are widespread in nature and play very diverse roles right from signal transduction and lipid mediator production to membrane phospholipid homeostasis. Phospholipases vary considerably in their structure, function, regulation, and mode of action therefore a deeper understanding of their dynamics and kinetics can be very crucial. The present study encompasses employing neutron reflectivity including other physical/chemical techniques to better understand the principles underlying the substrate specificity of phospholipases. We here, studied in detail the effect of the acyl chain length and unsaturation of phospholipids on their hydrolysis by type A1-PLA1 (sourced from Aspergillus oryzae), that was expressed in E.Coli and purified in its pure form thus allowing us to understand the key factors that regulate its activity.About the speaker: Giacomo Corucci graduated in Molecular and Applied Biology at Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM Ancona) and his Master thesis was focused on “RECOMBINANT CROTAMINE PRODUCTION AND STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS BY SMALL-ANGLE X-RAY SCATTERING OF ITS INTERACTIONS WITH MODEL MEMBRANE”. Later, he moved to Grenoble, France, for his PhD studies.
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[Webinar] Calorimetric methodologies: principles and applications
by Concetta Giancola
27 May 2021
Calorimetry is a powerful physicochemical methodology for measuring the thermal properties of a variety of substances, including soft-materials, and i...
Calorimetry is a powerful physicochemical methodology for measuring the thermal properties of a variety of substances, including soft-materials, and is the only technique for direct determination of the enthalpy change of the processes. Among calorimeters, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) are widely used in many fields of sciences. DSC, giving direct thermodynamic information, has proved to be very useful in clarifying the energetics of macromolecule transitions and in characterizing their thermal stability. On the other hand, ITC is very suitable to study the energetics of molecular interactions, giving the binding constant, the stoichiometry and all the thermodynamic parameters. Here basic principles, common instrumentations, data analyses and some applications will be discussed. Specifically, two examples of calorimetric applications to study the thermodynamics of secondary nano-emulsion formation and the energetics of ligand-receptor binding affinity on endothelial cells will be discussed.Register here.
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Soft Matter Café by Anton Popov
Microfluidics for MX/BioSAXS and other recent ideas
6 May 2021
One of the relevant topics nowadays is an applied science direction called microfluidics. As wide as the field of application of microfluidic devices ...
One of the relevant topics nowadays is an applied science direction called microfluidics. As wide as the field of application of microfluidic devices is, there are just as many manufacturing methods, but not all of them are fast, accessible and cheap. Our task is to create a simple and inexpensive experimental microfluidic device and sample environment. For the development of X-ray beamlines sample environment and experiments carried out, single products with a specific design are needed. Thus, rapid prototyping methods, which allow creating a device within one day, and if necessary quickly modify it, are in high demand. So now, I turned to one of the additive technologies elements - 3D printing, to develop and createmicrofluidic devices in a format that is suitable for mounting on the micro diffractometers installed on the ESRF’s MX beamlines, is compatible with the Sample Exposure Unit for BioSAXS, and is suitable for carrying out in-chip experiments on other soft matter samples. About the speaker: After getting his master of engineering diploma at Moscow Power Engineering Institute (Technical University) in 2009, Anton started his work as a research engineer in the Department of Applied Nanotechnology at the Kurchatov Center for Synchrotron Radiation and Nanotechnology (National Research Centre Kurchatov Institute). In this department, he was working on different topics, like microscopy, superconductivity, microelectronics, additive manufacturing, microfluidics using different lab equipment and got his scientist position. In March 2019, Anton defended his Ph.D. thesis on the topic "Microfluidic devices for studying the structure of proteins and the mechanisms of their crystallization at a synchrotron radiation source" in the field "Devices and methods of experimental physics". He was developing a production string that would make it possible to build up, quick and cheap, microfluidic devices for conducting experiments using both a laboratory and a synchrotron. The main demand has arisen in the field of Life sciences. Starting May 2019, Anton continued his scientific work as a post-doctoral fellow at the ESRF, in the Department of Structural Biology, where they, in collaboration with PSCM, develop microfluidics. 
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Soft Matter Café by Larissa dos Santos Araujo
Cyclodextrin-surfactant complexes: Temperature and pH responsive supramolecular aggregates
9 April 2021
Cyclodextrins play an important role in the self-assembly systems of amphiphiles. Among the distinguished physicochemical properties provided by the h...
Cyclodextrins play an important role in the self-assembly systems of amphiphiles. Among the distinguished physicochemical properties provided by the hollow shape of the cyclodextrins, the ability to form inclusion complexes with a variety of compounds has led to their wide application in different fields, as pharmaceuticals, environmental, cosmetic, food and nanotechnology industries. Surfactants are attractive candidates for host molecules due to their relevance, variety, versatility, and responsiveness. Moreover, the cyclodextrin-surfactant systems are an attractive research field, not only because of the versatility, but also due to the tendency of forming highly ordered biocompatible supramolecular aggregates. This presentation will introduce the thermodynamics aspects of the polyethylene oxide alkyl ether carboxylic acids and cyclodextrins host-guest complexes and discuss some structural aspects of the responsive supramolecular aggregates spontaneously formed.About the speaker: Larissa dos Santos Silva Araújo graduated in chemistry in 2016 at the Federal University of Ouro Preto, Brazil, where she started working with surface active systems. In 2019, she obtained the master’s degree in Environmental engineering at the same university working with the optimization of biosurfactant production and the bioproduct application in a soil recovery process. Since 2019, Larissa has been working towards the PhD degree at Università degli studi di Palermo within a partnership with ILL. Her main research interests include the thermodynamic analysis and structural characterization of surfactant and polysaccharide supramolecular assemblies using small-angle neutron scattering.
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Soft Matter Café by Peter van der Linden
Accurate and rapid 3D printing of microfluidic devices
4 March 2021
The use of microfluidics for sample preparation and experiments on X-ray beamlines has seen a steady growth over the last years. In comparison with tr...
The use of microfluidics for sample preparation and experiments on X-ray beamlines has seen a steady growth over the last years. In comparison with traditional approaches, microfluidics provides access to shorter length and timescales while using smaller quantities of sample material. The construction of microfluidic devices for use on synchrotron beamlines however is often a time consuming multi step process. Recent developments of 3D printing technology using Digital Light Processing have opened possibilities for rapid fabrication of complex microfluidic devices. We have modified a standard desktop printer to gain better control over the UV resin polymerisation and thus improve the quality of microfluidic devices. We have printed and tested different microfluidic components which were integrated into devices used for crystallisation of a biomineral and proteins. The presentation will explain how the printing method was improved and show the current status of microfluidic developments.About the speaker: After engineering school in Eindhoven, Peter worked for five years at the High Field Magnet Laboratory of Nijmegen University on the development of cryogenic sample cooling down to 1.2 Kelvin and measurements of resistivity and magnetisation in fields up to 25 Tesla. He came to the Grenoble High Field Magnet Laboratory in 1994 where he worked on dilution refrigeration down to 15 milliKelvin and measurement methods for use in static magnetic fields up to 30 Tesla and pulsed magnetic fields up to 60 Tesla. In 2003 Peter joined the ESRF where he developed amongst others miniature pulsed magnets up to 30 Tesla, different cryogenic systems such as the Dynaflow cryostat and the sample cooling for ID16A and ID32-RIXS, and flash freezing of biological crystals under pressures up to 2kbar. Since 2016 Peter works at the PSCM on the development of 3D printed microfluidics.
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Soft Matter Café by Martina Sandroni
Coordination complexes for energy conversion and catalysis
26 November 2020
Coordination complexes are metal-containing compounds showing very interesting redox, photochemical and catalytic properties. In this talk I will pres...
Coordination complexes are metal-containing compounds showing very interesting redox, photochemical and catalytic properties. In this talk I will present my past research activity on energy conversion (from light to electricity and chemical potential, and from electricity to light), catalysis and surface modification using such compounds. The aim is to present my background in chemical synthesis and in several analytical techniques, to see how it could fit in the ongoing activity at ILL or generate new collaborations.About the speaker: Martina Sandroni graduated in Chemistry at the University of Torino (Italy), then she moved to Nantes, France for a Ph.D. on copper(I) complexes for solar energy conversion (artificial photosynthesis and dye-sensitized solar cells), that she obtained in 2012. Afterwards, she continued her research on coordination complexes during post-docs in Canada (Sherbrooke) and France (Brest, Grenoble). Part of her activity focused again on energy conversion, with complexes for electroluminescent devices and inorganic nanoparticles (quantum dots) for hydrogen photoproduction in water. On the other hand, she also synthesized iron complexes for bio-mimetic oxygen reduction. In 2018, she spent one year at ESRF in Grenoble as electrochemistry laboratory responsible, and providing support to the users of a surface diffraction beamline. In October 2019, she joined ILL in the Soft Matter Science and Support group as chemistry laboratories manager.
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