New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

NYU Physicists Develop Potent Packing Process

February 28, 2011
280

New York University physicists have developed a method for packing microscopic spheres that could lead to improvements in commercial products ranging from pharmaceutical lotions to ice cream. Their work, which relies on an innovative application of statistical mechanics, appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study aimed to manipulate the properties of emulsions, which are a mixture of two or more immiscible liquids. The NYU researchers examined droplets of oil in water, which form the basis of a range of consumer products, including butter, ice cream, and milk.

The research was conducted in the laboratory of Jasna Brujić, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Physics and part of its Center for Soft Matter Research.

Previously, her laboratory determined how spheres pack. These earlier findings showed how this process depends on the relative sphere sizes. In the PNAS study, Brujić and her research team sought to create a method to manipulate further how particles pack.

To do so, the researchers relied on a physical property known as “depletion attraction,” a force that causes big particles to stick together by the pressure from the surrounding small ones.

Previous research has employed this process of attraction to create particulate gels, but these studies have tended to rely on thermally activated particles—below one micron in size—that result in complex structures known as fractals that look similar on all length scales.

In the PNAS study, the researchers used larger particles, which are not sensitive to room temperature and therefore pack under gravity alone. 

To bring about depletion attraction, they added tiny polymers to the larger particles suspended in water. In essence, they used the smaller polymers to force together the larger spheres. In order to regulate the nature of this packing—how tightly or loosely the larger particles fit together—the researchers developed a statistical model that determines the fluctuations in the local properties of the packing.

“What we discovered is that you can control the connectivity of the particles—how they stick together and their properties—by manipulating the extent of the attraction,” explained Brujić.

As a result of the discovery, the researchers have developed a method for potentially creating a range of materials—from loose to dense—based on the packing of their component parts.

The study’s other authors were Ivane Jorjadze, a graduate student, and Lea-Laetitia Pontani, a postdoctoral research scientist, both from NYU’s Department of Physics and the Center for Soft Matter Research, as well as Katherine Newhall, a doctoral student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

NYU has licensed the technology to Perfect Matter, Inc., a start-up formed by Science House, which will create enhanced commercial applications using this process.

For more on the Brujić Laboratory, click here; for more on the Center for Soft Matter Research, click here; for more on Science House, click here.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Arts and Science, Research, Faculty

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: James Devitt | (212) 998-6808

NYU Physicists Develop Potent Packing Process

NYU physicists have developed a method for packing microscopic spheres that could lead to improvements in commercial products ranging from pharmaceutical lotions to milk. ©iStockPhoto.com/DNY59.


Search News



NYU In the News

CUSP Unveils its “Urban Observatory”

Crain’s New York Business profiled CUSP’s “Urban Observatory” that is continuously photographing lower Manhattan to gather scientific data.

Post-Sandy Upgrades at the Langone Medical Center

NY1 reported on the major post-Sandy upgrades and renovations made at the Medical Center to protect the hospital from future catastrophic storms.

Steinhardt Research Helps Solve Tough Speech Problems.

The Wall Street Journal reported on research at Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, including an interview with Assistant Professor Tara McAllister Byun, that uses ultrasound to help solve tough speech problems.

Times Column Lauds Professor Stevenson’s New Memoir

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about “Just Mercy,” a new memoir by Law Professor Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, whom he noted has been called America’s Nelson Mandela.

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

NYU Footer