With the goal of ultimately deciphering the design principles for biomimetic materials that can autonomously stiffen and soften, we investigate colloids as a model system that can dynamically transition from fluid-like (sol) to gel-like (gel) when crosslinked with polymers. The model was first developed with colloids only, interacting via a Lennard-Jones potential and undergoing Brownian dynamics, with experimentally relevant parameters, to test and refine the simulation. We then added polymer crosslinkers that connect the colloids via an attractive spring force, and investigate resulting collective properties, such as the time needed for the formation of system spanning networks and the elastic moduli, for various colloid densities, interaction strengths, and cross-linker rest lengths and densities. Using experimental parameters for polystyrene spheres and Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) crosslinkers, we predicted the behavior of real systems. Finally, we replaced the passive, one-shot crosslinkers in our system by active cross-linkers that can dynamically and attach and detach, and characterized how the degree of order and the mechanical response of the system change with time. Our results provide insights into the design of self-sustaining soft materials that can dynamically stiffen and soften, and how the properties of such materials can be tuned.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Colloids--Mechanical properties; Crosslinked polymers

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Materials Science and Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Chemistry and Materials Science (COS)


Michael Pierce

Advisor/Committee Member

Moumita Das

Advisor/Committee Member

Scott Franklin


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes