Carla Fernández-Rico is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Materials at ETH Zurich, where she works on topics related to self-assembly, phase separation and structural colour. Originally from Barcelona, where she studied a Nanoscience’s degree, Carla first moved to the Netherlands to pursue a Master’s degree in Nanomaterials at Utrecht University, and then to the UK, where she earned a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Oxford. Her doctoral research focused on the development of novel colloidal systems for studying banana-shaped liquid crystals. After being awarded the ETH Zurich Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2021, Carla recently joined the Laboratory of Soft and Living Materials at ETH, where she combines her knowledge on colloidal self-assembly with the group’s experience in optics and mechanics.
Wednesday April 19th
Arresting Decomposition in Elastic Matrices for Making Nanostructured Materials
Phase separation is a fascinating physical process that is not only responsible for the internal organization of living cells but also a powerful tool for engineering the structure of functional materials. Nature has evolved the ability to control phase separation to make composite materials with an exquisite range of optical and mechanical properties. Striking examples of these are the blue colours shown by many birds. In this work, we demonstrate control over spinodal decomposition processes at the microscale using polymer matrices. We demonstrate that the length scale of the resulting composite material is tuneable and controlled by the mechanical properties of the polymer matrix. We also show that the threshold for phase separation is stabilized with increasing elasticity, and that the preferred demixing pathway is spinodal decomposition. These results open up a range of possibilities for both fundamental and applied research, including the development of polymer composites with structural colour.