Soft Matter Characterization Facility


The Soft Matter Characterization Facility (SMCF) maintains a full suite of instruments for characterizing the structure, properties, and dynamics of soft materials. SMCF instrumentation covers mechanical characterization and thermal analysis, macromolecular size characterization, and molecular spectroscopy. 

Please review the standard operating procedures for SMCF instruments.

The TA Instruments RSA-G2 dynamic mechanical analyzer (DMA) is the most advanced platform for mechanical analysis of solid and soft-solid materials. With a separate motor and transducer design, it is capable of performing the most accurate strain-controlled dynamic mechanical analysis measurements. The SMCF maintains various test geometries to support a range of DMA testing conditions. The forced convection oven (20–500°C) with house air and nitrogen gas, the Air Chiller System (-120–20°C) with house air, and the liquid immersion tension geometry support testing in a variety of well-controlled environments.

Instrument specifications

  • Force range: 0.0005–35 N (10 µN resolution)
  • Dynamic displacement range: 50 µm – 1.5 mm (1 nm resolution)
  • Modulus range: 103–1012 Pa (1% precision)
  • Frequency range: 10-5–100 Hz
  • Heating/cooling rate: 0.1–60°C/min (±0.1°C stability)

The TA Instruments ARES-G2 shear rheometer is the most advanced rotational rheometer for research and development. It remains the only rheometer with a dedicated actuator for deformation control, Torque Rebalance Transducer, and Force Rebalance Transducer for independent shear and normal stress measurements. The SMCF maintains various test geometries to support a range of testing conditions. The forced convection oven (20–500°C) with house air and nitrogen gas, the Advanced Chiller System (-120–20°C) with house air, and the Advanced Peltier System (-10–150°C) with solvent trap support testing in a variety of well-controlled environments.

Instrument specifications

  • Torque range: 0.0001–200 mN∙m (1 nN∙m resolution)
  • Dynamic displacement range: 1 µm–unlimited (0.05 µm resolution)
  • Angular frequency range: 10-7–628 rad/s
  • Heating/cooling rate: 0.1–60°C/min (±0.1°C stability)

Zwick-Roell zwickiLine Z0.5 materials testing instruments incorporate a high-performance drive motor, high stiffness load-frame, and fine resolution load-cell design for precise and reliable materials testing. The VideoXtens extensometer enables precision measurement of specimen size during testing, as well as real-time video capture. Users can perform tests in a variety of geometries, including tension, compression, and lap shear. The convection oven supports testing from -40–130°C, and a submersion chamber is available for wet testing of materials. 100 and 500 N load cells are equipped for tests of soft materials requiring fine force resolution.

The TA Instruments Discovery 2500 differential scanning calorimeter (DSC) provides best-in-class measurement performance in terms of baseline flatness, sensitivity, resolution, and reproducibility. This Discovery 2500 is Modulated-DSC enabled, providing the most complete analysis of complex thermal processes in broad classes of materials. TZero sample pans and a 54 slot autosampler enable highly automated testing of materials in well-controlled environmental conditions. The Refrigerated Cooling System permits measurements from -90 to 400°C without the need for liquid nitrogen.

Instrument specifications

  • Temperature accuracy: ±0.025°C
  • Typical sample size: 5–10 mg
  • Baseline drift: less than 5 μW

The TA Instruments Discovery thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA) is a superior platform for thermal analysis of materials, providing lower mass drift than any competitive TGA and high precision temperature control from ambient to 1200°C. The gas delivery module provides seamless switching between house nitrogen and air purge, and the 25 pan autosampler enables automated, high throughput testing of materials.

Instrument specifications

  • Platinum, high temperature platinum, and ceramic TGA pans available for wide range of testing conditions
  • Sample capacity: up to 1 gram (5 mg typical)
  • Baseline drift: less than 10 µg

The latest line of Shimadzu HPLC instrumentation coupled with a trio of Wyatt Technology’s on-line detectors provides unprecedented capability to characterize the molecular size, architecture, conformation, and molar mass of macromolecules in solution. The Wyatt Dawn HELEOS II multi-angle light scattering (MALS) instrument provides on-line absolute molecular weight measurement from 200–400,000 g/mol, in addition to traditional column calibration techniques, for determination of molar mass distributions. A 105-slot autosampler enables efficient testing of large sample sets.

Instrument specifications

  • Pump: Shimadzu HPLC LC20-AD
  • Eluent: THF
  • SEC columns: 2 Agilent PLgel 5 um MIXED-D + guard


  • Wyatt DAWN HELEOS II MALS detector (can be used online or stand-alone)
  • Wyatt ViscoStar III differential viscometer
  • Wyatt Optilab T-rEX differential refractive index detector
  • Shimadzu SPD-M30A Photodiode Array detector (200-800 nm)

The Tosoh EcoSEC size exclusion chromatography System (GPC) is specifically designed for fast polymer analysis. The all-in-one design provides low dead volume for high resolution applications, temperature-controlled pumps for excellent flow rate precision, and a dual flow refractive index detector design for unmatched baseline stability. 

Instrument Specifications

  • Eluent: DMF + 0.01 M LiBr (50º C)
  • Size exclusion chromatography columns: Tosoh SuperAW3000 + Tosoh SuperAW4000 + guard
  • Refractive index (RI) and ultraviolet (UV) detection
  • Polystyrene (PS) or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) calibration standards

The Wyatt Möbiuζ is the top-of-the-line light scattering instrument for reliable, reproducible, and non-destructive electrophoretic mobility and size analysis of macromolecules and nanoparticles with sizes ranging from as small as 1 nm to as large as 50 μm. The combined DLS/ELS measurement geometry enables simultaneous measurement of size and mobility for the direct determination of zeta potential and net charge.   

Test environments and instrument specifications

  • Sample temperature control from 4–70°C (±0.1°C) for exploration of a variety of sample conditions
  • Quartz micro-cuvettes (45 μL) enable measurement of small sample sizes and/or organic solvents
  • Disposable polystyrene cuvettes available for DLS temperature
  • Atlas pressurization system available for measurement of mobility in high salt buffers
  • Typical sample concentration: 1–10 mg/mL

The Shimadzu UV-3600 Plus UV-VIS-NIR spectrophotometer incorporates the latest technology to achieve high sensitivity, high resolution, and low stray light levels for optimal measurement of the UV-VIS-NIR spectrum in liquid, film, and powder samples. The first-in-class triple detector system and a high-performance double monochromator enable measurements with noise levels lower than 0.002 Abs at 0.1 nm wavelength resolution. A dual beam design provides simultaneous measurement of sample and reference materials.


  • Cuvette holder, film holder (transmission), Praying Mantis diffuse reflectance attachment
  • Spectral range: 185–3300 nm
  • Wavelength resolution: 0.1 nm

The Shimadzu IRTracer-100 Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometer (FTIR) enables fast and straightforward collection of high-quality FTIR spectra from a variety of samples ranging from liquids to rigid solids. With a signal-to-noise ratio better than 1000:1, this instrument is capable of measuring complex samples, from ultrathin polymer films to trace (parts per million) quantities of impurities in a bulk material. An onboard dehumidifier and active alignment function ensure continued, optimal performance of all optical elements.


  • GladiATR (diamond prism) single bounce attenuated total reflection (ATR) attachment for rapid sample analysis
  • Temperature control from ambient to 300°C
  • Spectral range: 7800–350 cm-1
  • Wavenumber resolution: 0.25–16 cm-1
  • Wavenumber accuracy: better than 0.2 cm-1

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