Department of Chemistry and Materials Science

Soft Materials Modelling

The Soft Materials Modelling Group of Maria Sammalkorpi employs computational and theoretical means to study macromolecular and surfactant systems in bulk solutions and at interfaces. We work on polymer and protein materials, as well as, colloidal systems. We love understanding soft materials at molecular level, work in tight collaboration with experimentalists and do our molecular modelling at atomistic to mesoscale.

Maria is a principal investigator in the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Life Inspired Hybrid Materials 2022-2029 and has also been acknowledged with the Novo Nordisk Ascending Investigator 2022 award in biotechnology related to biosynthetic materials.
Soft Materials Modelling group Aalto University

Our research topics and methodology:

  1. Computational and theoretical research of macromolecular and surfactant systems

  2. Modelling of polymer and protein materials, as well as, colloidal systems

  3. Atomistic to mesoscale modelling of soft matter

Research projects in Soft Materials Modelling group

We work mainly on biotechnology, polymer materials, and adaptive soft matter systems. Our research focuses on macromolecular and colloidal assemblies but also complex externally driven assembly in soft matter. We strive for fundamental understanding, yet work on practical materials and research questions, typically in tight collaboration with experimental groups. We are the modelling group the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in Life-Inspired Hybrid Materials (LIBER): we tend to get especially excited about assembly phenomena, the influence of interfaces (surfaces), and external driving of the material self-organization via molecular and energy flows. Soft matter in electric and magnetic fields also gets our attention, as do the effects of ion pairing (charge correlations) and ion gradients in solutions in controlling assembly and structure formation.

Some topic areas that we work on are listed below.

Coacervate / condensate phase of polyelectrolytes and proteins. For polyelectrolyte materials, we have worked on the role of water and ions on the thermal response of materials rising from complex coacervation (polyelectrolyte complexes and multilayers). For protein systems, we focus on block proteins that undergo liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) as a preassembly step for structural protein materials. Most of our protein materials work is on synthetic silk-like proteins.

Colloids in apolar environments (oil-water-oil interfaces and reverse micellar systems). An apolar solvent, opposed to water as the solvent, results in surfactant and colloidal assembly systems to a variety of both fundamentally and technologically relevant, yet poorly understood phenomena. We examine assembly and adsorption in reverse micellar systems but also driven self-organization of colloidal assemblies in apolar media. We work on both biobased and synthetic surfactant systems.

Cellulose materials and other carbohydrates. In cellulose materials, we focus on understanding water interactions and co-solute effects at cellulose crystal interfaces to understand transitions in cellulose crystal aqueous suspensions, more precisely sol to gel and gel to stiff gel transitions. We have also ongoing research efforts on solvent effects in colloidal lignin assembly and starch as assembly additive in systems with colloidal particles. In these, our modelling targets biobased, responsive materials.

Meet the team:

Dr. Maria Sammalkorpi

Research group leader, PI Maria Sammalkorpi

Maria is a scientist by training, a researcher by disposition, and tends to care. Her researcher profile including an incomplete list of publications and pdfs can be found here ( Maria is a principal investigator in  the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence (CoE) in Life Inspired Hybrid Materials (LIBER) and the group is the modelling group of the CoE. Maria also sends special funding love notes to Novo Nordisk Fonden for Ascending Investigator 2022 award.

Maria teaches Molecular Thermodynamics (CHEM-E4210) and Computational Chemistry I (CHEM-E4115). She also instructs a number of student projects and B.Sc. theses for the Aalto degree programs. She is involved in a few other things as well. Anyway, what ever is your reason to seek her out, her work contact information is:

  • Mail: Department of Chemistry and Materials Science & Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems, Aalto University, P.O. Box 16100, FI-00076 AALTO, Finland
  • Office: C217b, Kemistintie 1 (Chemistry building)
  • Email: maria.sammalkorpi((at)) /
  • Tel: +358-50-3717434

Soft Materials Modelling group:

Join us:

Job openings

  • We are looking for a post-doctoral fellow to join the group. Doctoral student candidates may apply at M.Sc. thesis level.

  • We hire every year 1-2 B.Sc. or M.Sc. students as summer research assistants. The application period is in January.

B.Sc. and M.Sc. theses in soft materials modelling (Aalto University students)

  • B.Sc. thesis: Maria instructs quite a lot of Aalto B.Sc. theses. The topics may cover molecular modelling of soft and bio materials but also more general soft materials topics. An Aalto student who wants to do a B.Sc. thesis or a study related research project should contact Maria to check for possibilities. Number of available positions is limited.
  • M.Sc. thesis: the Soft Materials Modelling group has M.Sc. thesis topics for Aalto University students covering molecular modelling of polymer materials, bio-based colloids, or surfactant assemblies. See the link here for more information.

Related content:

A portrait of Maria Sammalkorpi.

Ascending Investigator Grant from Novo Nordisk Foundation awarded to Maria Sammalkorpi for computational biosynthetic materials research

Senior Scientist Maria Sammalkorpi has been awarded the highly competed Ascending Investigator 2022 Grant from Novo Nordisk Foundation for a total of ca 9 million DKK (1.2M€).

A detail of spider silk material developed in Aalto University, image Fotoni Film & Communications

Two new Centres of Excellence to Aalto University – the university is also involved in two consortia

Electromechanical Energy Conversion and Transfer and Life-Inspired Hybrid Materials were chosen as Centres of Excellence led by Aalto University

Photo by Teemu Välisalmi

ONLINE: Biotech Talks I – NewSilk 2020

'Designing materials on molecular level – what does it mean for researchers, designers - and for the globe?’


It is all about water: thermal transitions in polyelectrolyte assemblies occur via a dehydration mechanism

Researchers have for the first time deduced the microscopic nature of the anomalous thermal transition that hydrated polyelectrolyte assemblies bear.


Towards more efficient gene therapy by investigating interactions of polyelectrolytes

A recent thesis investigated the interactions of charged polymers in salt solution.


Videos of a cross-disciplinary research effort in which Sammalkorpi group participated.

In the New Silk project, design and materials science met on bio-based synthetic protein materials (silk like materials). More info is available at

Latest publications

Molecular mechanisms of pH-tunable stability and surface coverage of polypeptide films

Adam L. Harmat, Maria Morga, Jodie L. Lutkenhaus, Piotr Batys, Maria Sammalkorpi 2023 Applied Surface Science

Single core and multicore aggregates from a polymer mixture: A dissipative particle dynamics study

Sousa Javan Nikkhah, Maria Sammalkorpi 2023 Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

Controlling self-assembling co-polymer coatings of hydrophilic polysaccharide substrates via co-polymer block length ratio

Alberto Scacchi, Kourosh Hasheminejad, Sousa Javan Nikkhah, Maria Sammalkorpi 2023 Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

Interactions between Rigid Polyelectrolytes Mediated by Ordering and Orientation of Multivalent Nonspherical Ions in Salt Solutions

Hossein Vahid, Alberto Scacchi, Maria Sammalkorpi, Tapio Ala-Nissila 2023 Physical Review Letters

Equilibrium state model for surfactants in oils: Colloidal assembly and adsorption

Maisa Vuorte, Susanna Kuitunen, Paul R. Van Tassel, Maria Sammalkorpi 2023 Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

Theoretical and computational analysis of the electrophoretic polymer mobility inversion induced by charge correlations

Xiang Yang, Sahin Buyukdagli, Alberto Scacchi, Maria Sammalkorpi, Tapio Ala-Nissila 2023 Physical Review E

On the mechanism for the highly sensitive response of cellulose nanofiber hydrogels to the presence of ionic solutes

Suvi Arola, Zhennan Kou, Bart J.M. Rooijakkers, Rama Velagapudi, Maria Sammalkorpi, Markus B. Linder 2022 Cellulose

Quantification of Water-lon Pair Interactions in Polyelectrolyte Multilayers Using a Quartz Crystal Microbalance Method

Chikaodinaka I. Eneh, Tuuva Kastinen, Suyash Oka, Piotr Batys, Maria Sammalkorpi, Jodie L. Lutkenhaus 2022 ACS Polymers Au

Application of amino acid ionic liquids for increasing the stability of DNA in long term storage

Mohammad Khavani, Aliyeh Mehranfar, Hossein Vahid 2022 Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics

Effect of Ethanol and Urea as Solvent Additives on PSS-PDADMA Polyelectrolyte Complexation

Mohammad Khavani, Piotr Batys, Suvesh M. Lalwani, Chikaodinaka I. Eneh, Anna Leino, Jodie L. Lutkenhaus, Maria Sammalkorpi 2022 Macromolecules
More information on our research in the Research database.
Research database
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