Technicians in charge: Amable Bernabé and David Piña
Scientist in charge: Nora Ventosa


Soft Materials

The Soft Material Service provides the tools and assistance for the preparation and characterization of micro and nanostructured soft molecular materials with applications in different fields like biomedicine, electronics, energy storage, and others. It is linked to the U6 (Biomaterial Processing and Nanostructuring Unit) of the ICTS-NANBIOSIS.

Scientific equipment available

Processing equipment
  • Lab-scale high pressure equipment for materials processing with compressed fluids (up to 25 MPa of pressure and 450 °C temperature): Stainless steel, high-pressure equipments for the preparation of soft molecular materials with controlled structure at supramolecular, micro- and nanoscopic level. Available volumes of 10, 25, 50, 100, 150 and 300 mL.
  • High-pressure pilot plant for the preparation and processing of soft and particulated materials (up to 50 MPa of pressure and 500 °C temperature): Pilot plant made of 4 in-series reactors from 1 to 16 L, for the development of projects involving high flows. Suitable for batch or continuous operational mode.
  • Ultrasonics for the preparation of disperse systems: Equipped with a VCZX 750, Sonics and Materials, it can safely process a wide range of organic and inorganic materials – from microliters to liters.
  • Phase analyzer: High-pressure, variable-volume, stainless-steel vessel for the visual inspection of pressurized fluids and analysis of thermodynamic phase behaviours. Pressure and volume are controlled by means of a plunger driven by a compressed gas. The vessel is also thermostated to the temperature of choice. Ideal for solubility and miscibility measurements of pressurized mixtures.
Characterization equipment
  • Zetasizer NanoZS: Measurement of the particle size distribution of solid or dispersed materials (suspensions, liposome, vesicles, emulsions), in the range comprised between 0.6nm and 6 microns, by dynamic light scattering.
  • Nanosight NS300: Allows automated analysis of the size distribution and concentration of particles in liquid suspension, in the range comprised between 10nm to 1 micron, using light scattering and Brownian motion.
  • Mastersizer 2000: Allows for the measurement of particle size distribution through laser diffraction techniques. The measure range is between 100 nm to 3500 microns.
  • Turbiscan Lab: For stability studies of different products (emulsions, suspensions, foams, etc), to detect destabilisations such as coalescence, flocculation, creaming, sedimentation, etc.
  • LM20: Allows for the real-time visualization of nanoparticles in a liquid for particle size distribution and particle concentration in a range of samples, like paints, pigments, sun creams, inks, metals, metal oxides or fuel additives in any non-corrosive solvent as well as biological ones. The measure range is between 10 nm to 1 micron.
  • VP Isothermal Titration Calorimetry: Ultrasensitive isothermal titration calorimeter for measurement of heat released or absorbed during a biomolecular binding event, useful for the characterization of inter biomolecular and biomolecure-materials interactions.
  • Ultrapyc 1200e Helium Pycnometer: Fully automated gas pycnometer, for the measurement of volume and density of powders, granular materials, and solid objects.
  • Autotap: Tap Density Analyzer that allows for the measurement of the maximum packing efficiency on particle-particle cohesion, formalized in international standards to which Autotap conform
  • Zetasizer Ultra: The Zetasizer ULTRA is used to measure the particle size of dispersed systems from sub-nanometer to several micrometers in diameter, using the technique of Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS). Zetasizer systems are also used to analyze particle mobility and charge (Zeta potential) using the technique of Electrophoretic Light Scattering (ELS), and the molecular weight of particles in solution using Static Light Scattering (SLS).
  • Green Laser: The Green laser module for the NanoSight NS300 equipment. The NS300 allows analysis of the size distribution and concentration of all types of nanoparticles from 0.01 – 1 µm in diameter. This new laser module will allow NTA to measure a range of fluorescent particles, avoiding interferences during the measurements due to sample (auto)fluorescence and absorption. This is done by detecting the fluorescence signal, which is emitted naturally by particles or as a result of fluorescence labeling or tagging.
  • KrosFlo Research IIi TFF System: The equipment is a cross-flow filtration equipment used for the separation of components by size. The technique is classified as a membrane-based separation method. The operation of the system consists on the recirculation of a sample across a porous column made of thin fibers, where components bigger than the pore size are retained inside the recirculating system while the components smaller than the pore size are able to cross the porous column, being separated from the original sample. The driving force of the separation is the transmembrane pressure (TMP), which is generated by means of a peristaltic pump built in the equipment.


In the Soft Materials Service, users can perform their experiments assisted by technicians or as auto-service. The service usage is split between 12 ICMAB research groups, 35 external research groups from other research facilities and universities and 9 groups from different companies.

The materials characterization equipment has been used for 1.665 hours (64% by internal users and 46% by external users) and the materials processing equipment has been used for 2.735 hours (85% by internal users and 15% by external users).

Outreach, publications and projects in which the service has participated

Outreach activities in which the service has participated in 2020:

The SOFT Service has organized a course for CSIC staff called: “Técnicas de caracterización de materiales particulados”.

Due to the COVID situation the number of on-site activities performed decreased, being substituted by online methods. This is the case of the informative session given about the implementation of the quality system, and the virtual visits to the service provided in the degree in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

We signed two contracts with the company Nanomol Technologies and Sant Joan de Deu Hospital.

Main projects in which the service has participated in 2020:

Smart multifunctional GLA-Nanoformulation for treating Fabry Disease (SMART-4-FABRY)
H2020 EU Research and Innovation Programme (CALLH2020-NMBP-2016-2017), ref.720942
Nora Ventosa

Hybrid nanostructured oligonucleotide platforms for biomedical applications (NANO-OLIGOMED)
EU project. H2020-MSCA-RISE-2017; ref. 778133
Nora Ventosa

Fluorescent organic nanoparticles for bioimaging (FONBIO)
ACCIÓ. TECSPR17-1-0035
Nora Ventosa

Targeted Quatsome nanocarriers for the delivery of microRNA for neuroblastoma therapy (TAGSMARTLY)
CIBER-BBN Valorization 2020 Program
Nora Ventosa
2020-2022, 45.000 €

Rising the Impact of Selected Engineered Bacterial Cellulose composites (RICE-BC)
Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades, RTI2018-096273-B-I00
Anna Laromaine, Anna Roig

Novel Nanocellulose Patches to Treat Corneal Wounds (CORNEAL-BC)
Ajuts LLAVOR. Agaur
Anna Laromaine, Anna Roig

Magnetic biomaterials for brain repair and imaging after stroke (MAGBBRIS)
Euronanomed III EURONANOMED2017-185
Anna Roig

Synthetic nanoparticles as an innovative treatment for sepsis (SPRINT4SPESIS)
Fundación Ramón Areces, XIX National Contest of Life and Material Sciences Research Grants
Anna Roig

Main publications of the service in 2020:

Dye-Loaded Quatsomes Exhibiting FRET as Nanoprobes for Bioimaging
Judit Morla-Folch, Guillem Vargas-Nadal, Tinghan Zhao, Cristina Sissa, Antonio Ardizzone, Siarhei Kurhuzenkau, Mariana Köber, Mehrun Uddin, Anna Painelli, Jaume Veciana, Kevin D. Belfield, Nora Ventosa
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2020, 12, 18, 20253-20262, 10.1021/acsami.0c03040

MKC-Quatsomes: a stable nanovesicle platform for bio-imaging and drug-delivery applications
Vargas-Nadal, Guillem; Munoz-Ubeda, Monica; Alamo, Patricia; Arnal, Montserrat Mitjans; Cespedes, Virtudes; Kober, Mariana; Gonzalez, Elisabet; Ferrer-Tasies, Lidia; Pilar Vinardell, M.; Mangues, Ramon; Veciana, Jaume; Ventosa, Nora
Nanomedicine-Nanotechnology Biology and Medicine 2020, 24, 102136, 10.1016/j.nano.2019.102136

Use of N-oxide and cationic surfactants to enhance antioxidant properties of (+)-usnic acid loaded liposomes
Battista, Sara; Campitelli, Patrizio; Galantini, Luciano; Kober, Mariana; Vargas-Nadal, Guillem; Ventosa, Nora; Giansanti, Luisa
Colloids and Surfaces A - Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects 2020, 585, 124154, 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2019.124154

Stable anchoring of bacteria-based protein nanoparticles for surface enhanced cell guidance
Martinez-Miguel, Marc; Kyvik, Adriana R.; Ernst, Lena M.; Martinez-Moreno, Albert; Cano-Garrido, Olivia; Garcia-Fruitos, Elena; Vazquez, Esther; Ventosa, Nora; Guasch, Judith; Veciana, Jaume; Villaverde, Antonio; Ratera, Imma
Journal of Materials Chemistry B 2020, 8, 23, 5080-5088, 10.1039/d0tb00702a

PhD Thesis Defended using the Soft Lab:

Guillem Vargas-Nadal, “Novel Quatsome nanovesicles, prepared using compressed CO2, for the development of advanced nanomedicines”; supervised by Nora ventosa and Lidia Ferrer from Nanomol Technologies, Octubre 2020, Universitat de Barcelona (UB).

Dolores Bueno, “Peptide functionalized nanoliposomes for biomolecule intracellular delivery, prepared using compressed CO2”, supervised by Nora Ventosa and Elisabet González, March 2020, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).

Zhongrui Luo, “In vivo interactions between food availability and nanoparticles in Caenorhabditis elegans” supervised by Anna Laromaine

Yajie Zhang, “Multimodal Imaging PLGA Nanocapsules as Protein Carrier for Potential Neurorepair in Ischemic Brain“ supervised by Anna Roig and Anna Rosell from Vall d’Hebron Research Institute.

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Web & Graphic Editor
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