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

Scientific & Technical Services

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

Use of the Service in 2019

The Soft Materials service has the possibility to perform the experiments with technician or in auto-service, and has many external users using the equipment. The service has been used by 11 ICMAB research groups, by 34 external research groups from other research centers or universities, and by 7 groups from different companies.

The equipment for materials characterization has been used 2,426 hours (53 % by internal users and 47 % by external users) and the equipment for materials processing has been used 5,150 hours (84 % by internal users and 16 % by external users).

New equipment, contracts, techniques

During 2019 the LyoQyest-80 processing equipment was acquired. The equipment is design for the lyophilisation of liquid samples and colloidal dispersions. The lyophilisation or freeze-drying is a drying process where liquid components undergo a sublimation process. The characterization equipment Infinite M200 Pro Reader is also new. The equipment is a multimode microplate reader that provides a full range of leading detection methods. It can be used for a wide range of biological assays and measurements including: DNA/RNA quantification, protein quantification and ion channel studies, among others. This has involved two new techniques for materials characterization: lyophilisation and plate reader (ELISA).

Moreover, during 2019 a new contract with the company Nanomol Technologies has started.

The Soft Materials services is working in the implementation of a quality management system (QMS) based on the ISO 9001:2015 requirements. The implementation aspects were discussed in the NANBIOSIS meeting, which took place at the ICMAB in November 2019.

Outreach, publications and projects in which the service has participated

The Soft Materials service has participated in several outreach activities, such as “Programa Argó”, in which we have welcomed visits of scholar groups of different levels, as well as University groups. The Service has organized a course for the CSIC staff called: “Técnicas de caracterización de materiales particulados”. We have also received many ESCOLAB school visits.

The service is co-author of the following publications:

  • Impact of physicochemical properties of DNA/PEI complexes on transient transfection of mammalian cells. González-Dominguez, I., Grimaldi, N., Cervera, L., Ventosa, N., Gòdia, F. New Biotechnology 49:88-97, 2019.
  • MKC-Quatsomes: a stable nanovesicle platform for bio-imaging & drug-delivery applications. G Vargas-Nadal, …M. Köber, E. González, J. Veciana, N. Ventosa et al. Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Medicine, 24, 102136, 2019.
  • Semen miRNAs Contained in Exosomes as Non-Invasive Biomarkers for Prostate Cancer Diagnosis. Barceló, M., Castells, M., Bassas, L. et al.  Sci Rep 9, 13772, 2019.


The service has participated in the following projects:

  • Smart-4-Fabry: Smart multifunctional GLA-Nanoformulation for treating Fabry Disease (ref.720942); European Commision; 5.8 M euros; 2017-2020; Coordinator of the whole project.
  • MOTHER: Molecular materials and supramolecular organizations for therapy, diagnosis and tissue engineering (ref. MAT2016-80826-R); "Proyectos I+D+i" Spanish Ministry MINECO; 250k euros; 2016-2019; Co-leader.
  • NANO4DERM: Nanocapsules containing active ingredients for the topical treatment of dermatological diseases (ref. RTC-2016-4576-1); "Proyectos Retos" Spanish Ministry MINECO; 1.02 M euros (191k euros for CSIC); 2016-2019; coordinator: G. Amat, Almirall (pharmaceutical company); leader of CSIC team.
  • NANONAFRES: pre-clinical and phase I/II clinical studies of EGF loaded nanovesicles in the treatment of venous ulcers (ref. COMRDI 15-1-0023); RIS3-CAT (FEDER Catalonia); 2.3M euros (199k euros for CSIC); coordinator: S. Sala, Nanomol Technologies S.L.; leader of the CSIC team.
  • UNDERLIPIDS: solid lipid nanoparticles for subcutaneous administration of antitumoral marine compounds (ref. RTC-2015-3303-1); "Proyectos Retos" Spanish Ministry MINECO; 2.5M euros (312k euros for CSIC); coordinator: P. Calvo Pharmamar (pharmaceutical company); leader of CSIC team
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