リサーチユニット総覧(Research Unit Magazine)

つくばの頭脳で ソフトマターに挑む
ソフトマター科学リサーチユニットThe brains of Tsukuba to take on the challenge of soft matter research

代表者 : 齋藤 一弥    中核研究者 : 山村 泰久  
他のメンバー : 庄司 光男  長友 重紀  
キーワード: ソフトマター、複雑液体、液晶、バイオマテリアル



32saitou01 ソフトマターとは、液晶・高分子など柔らかい物質の総称で、物理学・化学・生物学の境界領域に位置し、多角的な視点から研究が発展します。そこで、液晶、複雑液体、バイオマテリアルを3本の柱に、理論と実験を有機的に結合した主担当グループを組織し、研究を強力に推進するリサーチユニット「ソフトマター科学」を結成しました。



図1:ソフトマターで広く見られる双連結構造 の単位格子。赤と青のギャングルジムが 周期的極小曲面で仕切られた二つの空間 に存在する。液晶では1000 個ほどの分 子が集まってこのような構造を作る。

図1:ソフトマターで広く見られる双連結構造の単位格子。赤と青のギャングルジムが周期的極小曲面で仕切られた二つの空間に存在する。液晶では1000 個ほどの分子が集まってこのような構造を作る。

図2:細胞膜類似の構造をもつベシクル(閉じた小胞)上の脂質二重膜内で起きた相分離    (蛍光色素でオレンジとグリーンに着色)。機能発現にはこうした膜の不均一が重要    と考えられている。










図3:クラクフ核物理研究所(ポーランド) から2 名の研究者を招きセミナーを 開催(2014 年11 月)

図3:クラクフ核物理研究所(ポーランド) から2 名の研究者を招きセミナーを 開催(2014 年11 月)

  • 一般向け書籍出版:瀬戸秀紀 (著) 「 ソフトマター
    やわらかな物質の物理学」( 米田出版, 2012)
  • 「 つくばソフトマター研究会2013」開催
     ( 2013年3月11日 会場:筑波大学)
  • 国内外の研究者を招き、年2 ~ 3回セミナーを開催





The brains of Tsukuba to take on the challenge of soft matter research

Unit representative : Saito, Kazuya    Core researcher : Yamamura, Yasuhisa  
Unit members : Shoji, Mitsuo  Nagatomo, Shigenori  

Unit name: Soft-Matter Science

Key words: soft matter, complex liquid, liquid crystal, and biomaterial


32saitou01 Soft matter – a collective term for soft substances, is positioned on the borders between physics, chemistry, and biology, and the development of its research is facilitated by multifaceted perspectives. Researchers specializing in the fields of liquid crystals, complex liquid, and biomaterial organized a group, which organically integrates theories with experiments, as the research unit: “Soft-Matter Science”, to actively promote research on soft matter.



Infinite possibilities of soft matter

図1:ソフトマターで広く見られる双連結構造 の単位格子。赤と青のギャングルジムが 周期的極小曲面で仕切られた二つの空間 に存在する。液晶では1000 個ほどの分 子が集まってこのような構造を作る。

Figure 1: Unit lattices in the dual-concatenated structure often identified in soft matters. There are red and blue jungle gym-shaped structures in two spaces separated by a periodic minimum surface. Liquid crystals have such a structure consisting of approximately 1,000 molecules.

When research on “physical properties” (condensed matter physics) initially evolved at a significant rate, its subjects were primarily metals, semiconductors, ceramics, and other hard matter. The crystal structure of hard matter is characterized by the orderly arrangement of the majority of its atoms. Since it is relatively easy to measure hard matter and/or conduct their theoretical studies, they have been used to create various products and materials. On the other hand, soft matter, such as the bodies of organisms, food, and a variety of petrochemical products, are easily available to us. Some “hard” substances like glass are classified as soft matter, to our surprise. Glass is actually “a fluid substance with a markedly high viscosity”, and its atoms are irregularly arrayed. “Liquid crystals”, which can change into various forms because the arrangement of its atoms is irregular unlike crystals, also represent soft matter.

People started to use the term “soft matter” around 1991, when Pierre-Gilles de Gennes received a Nobel Prize in Physics for his research achievements in this field. In recent years, research on their applications to biomembranes and cosmetics has received attention. The shape and properties of soft matter are determined by the form of its molecular assembly. Soft matter has many distinctive characteristics: e.g., their forms change when they are subjected to light or temperature changes. The pursuit of possibilities in a chaotic environment motivates researchers on soft matter.

図2:細胞膜類似の構造をもつベシクル(閉じた小胞)上の脂質二重膜内で起きた相分離    (蛍光色素でオレンジとグリーンに着色)。機能発現にはこうした膜の不均一が重要    と考えられている。

Figure 2: Phase separation (stained in orange and green using fluorescent dyes) identified in lipid bilayer membranes on (closed) vesicles with a structure analogous to cellular membranes. These inhomogeneous membranes are considered to be the key to the expression of cellular functions.

In 2012, following the establishment of the research unit, the research group led by Professor Saito conducted research on liquid crystals, and clarified the complex structure of molecular assembly. Since many different polymers have this structure (Figure 1), the findings attracted much attention, including the publication of a report entitled “Analyses of molecular arrays in the gyroid phase” in the “Science News” (on September 7, 2012).

At present, the subjects of research conducted by the unit members are primarily complex liquids, including glass, liquid crystals, and biologically relevant substances, rather than polymers – a representative soft matter. However, the members have been exerting efforts, including the application of ideas developed for research on liquid crystals to biologically relevant substances to facilitate the development of research.



Assembly of soft matter research activities in the Tsukuba area

As research on soft matter is still at the development stage, a system that encourages researchers from different fields to inspire each other and take on difficult challenges is effective. Fortunately, there are also researchers on soft matter in other research institutions in the Tsukuba area other than the University of Tsukuba, such as the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, NIMS, and KEK, and they have voluntarily held small research meetings. The meetings are developing further into a variety of activities, including an annual workshop (from 2009) referred to as the “Tsukuba Soft Matter Workshop” with researchers of the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo, located along the Tsukuba Express line, and cooperative and collaborative projects involving students.



Social contributions and achievements
図3:クラクフ核物理研究所(ポーランド) から2 名の研究者を招きセミナーを 開催(2014 年11 月)

Figure 3: Held a seminar (in November 2014) inviting two researchers from the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Cracow (Poland)


– Publication of books for the general public: “Soft Matter Physics” written by Hideki Seto (Yoneda Shuppan, 2012)

– “Tsukuba Soft Matter Workshop 2013” held on March 11, 2013, at the University of Tsukuba

– Held seminars two to three times a year inviting researchers from across Japan and other countries



Interviewed on July 22, 2015