Top NSF petascale supercomputer and expert staff accelerate discoveries for nation's scientists

Published on May 27, 2014 by Aaron Dubrow

Peering into a colloidal gel. Particles are colorized continuously from red to white to blue – red indicating few contacting neighbors, blue indicating many contacting neighbors. Credit: Roseanna N. Zia, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Cornell University

Colloidal Gels in Biomedicine

Cornell University researchers are using Stampede to help explain another nanoscale phenomenon: how a colloidal gel -- a smart material with promise in biomedicine -- maintains its stability.

Colloidal gels are comprised of microscopic particles suspended in a solvent. They form networks of chained-together particles that support their own weight under gravity. For this reason, the soft solids form an emerging class of smart materials such as injectable pharmaceuticals and artificial tissue scaffolds. However, they are also beset by stability problems.

On Stampede, researchers conducted the largest and longest simulation of a colloidal gel. Their simulations helped answer several questions, including: What is the concentration and structure of the network strands? How does the gel restructure itself over time? And how does its structure affect a gel's mechanical properties?

"We have been absolutely happy with our entire experience on Stampede," said Roseanna N. Zia, assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell. "The support of the review panel in granting such a large series of requests was just fantastic. In addition, the help desk has been consistently outstanding, and our XSEDE Campus Champion was a huge help in getting started. There is no way this study could have taken place without XSEDE's computational support."

Zia presented her results at the Society of Rheology Annual meeting in October 2013. As a result, she was asked to contribute to an invitation-only special issue of the Journal of Rheology.

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