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Professor Paul Bartlett

Soft Matter Chemistry

I study the design, synthesis and analysis of soft matter systems, focusing in particular on the structure and dynamics of colloidal suspensions.

What is Soft Matter?

Soft Matter is very, very widespread. You've almost certainly eaten it for breakfast this morning, washed your hair with it, smeared it over your face before leaving for work and are now reading about it on a display which only works precisely because it is a soft material.

Soft Matter is the science of squishy materials such as as polymers, liquid crystals, colloids, foams, gels, and a wide variety of self-organizing materials. Or on a more technical note, it is the study of materials with length scales which are much larger than molecules, so their physical properties are dominated by thermal fluctuations and easily deformed by applied external stresses.

Why is it interesting?

The beauty of Soft Matter is that everything happens on scales which are much bigger than the size of its atomic or molecular constituents. Surprising things happen which are difficult to predict from simply knowing the microscopic molecular structure because of the dominant role of entropy in the system. The presence of many fluctuating degrees of freedom ensures the equilibrium structure is very sensitive to external stresses. This sensitivity raises fascinating new problems in physics, chemistry and material science opening up numerous possibilities for technological applications.

What do we do?

My research group employs a variety of experimental techniques such as three-dimensional confocal microscopy, optical manipulation, and light, X-ray and neutron scattering to understand how the macroscopic physical properties of soft materials are determined by the mesoscopic structure of these fascinating materials.

Research keywords

  • Soft Matter
  • optical manipulation
  • confocal microscopy
  • and scattering techniques.