Soft Materials in Complex Environments: from Porous Rocks to the Human Body

Series/Event Type: 

Tremendous progress has been made in understanding the bulk behavior of soft materials. However, diverse applications rely on how these materials behave in complex environments—where environmental factors alter material microstructure, the material itself alters the environment, and these dynamical processes give rise to emergent effects. These coupled interactions pose new challenges to our understanding. In this talk, I will describe two examples, in two very different settings, of how we disentangle the interactions between soft materials and their environments. First, I will describe how we visualize single-phase and multi-phase flow within a disordered 3D porous medium, over length scales ranging from smaller than a pore to that of the entire medium. This enables us to elucidate the physical origin of fluctuations and fluid instabilities in this complex system. Second, I will describe how we combine biological imaging and thermodynamic modeling to probe the mucus hydrogel that lines and protects the gut. We find that this biological barrier responds dynamically to polymers in its environment; moreover, this behavior can be modulated by microbes, revealing an unexpected interplay between polymer content, microbiota, and the biological structures that protect us. Ultimately, this research stimulates new findings and questions at the interface of Engineering, Physics, Materials Science, and Biology.

Sujit Datta, Princeton University
Maeder Hall, ACEE
Friday, April 13, 2018 - 4:00pm

Speaker Bio

Prof. Sujit Datta is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. He is also an Affiliated Faculty at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. He earned a BA in Mathematics and Physics and an MS in Physics in 2008 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied nanomaterials like graphene and carbon nanotubes. He earned his PhD in Physics in 2013 from Harvard, where he studied fluid dynamics and instabilities in porous media and colloidal microcapsules. His postdoctoral training was in Chemical Engineering at Caltech, where he studied microbial biophysics of the gut. He joined Princeton in 2017, where his lab seeks to understand and control the interactions between soft materials and their complex environments, motivated by applications like oil/gas recovery, water remediation, and drug delivery. Prof. Datta is the recipient of the LeRoy Apker Award for outstanding achievements in Physics and the Andreas Acrivos Award in Fluid Dynamics from the American Physical Society.