Dodecane microdroplets in aqueous surfactant
Biological, Soft and Complex materials are all around us. They are what we are made of, and a great many everyday materials are soft, complex and biological. What defines biological, soft and complex materials? The physicist’s perspective is that these materials are readily perturbed by external fields : that is to say, for example they can be deformed, manipulated, melted or frozen easily. In other words, soft, complex and biological materials are matter far from equilibrium.
In Bristol, we study biological, soft and complex materials and in wide context, from the fundamentals of phase transitions (for example, we still do not understand the every process by which water transforms to ice) to applications such as future display technology. In particular we investigate systems ranging from supercooled liquids, model biological membranes, liquid crystal phases and colloidal glasses. Our work builds on Bristol’s rich legacy in liquids and polymers (archetypal biological, soft and complex materials) from the work of Sir John Lennard-Jones, Sir Charles Frank, Sir John Enderby and Andrew Keller.
Our experimental work is carried out in our Bristol laboratories, which are equipped to a nationally leading standard, using scattering and real space measurement techniques to determine structures and dynamics of soft materials. We also regularly use external X-ray and Neutron scattering facilities.
The experiments are complemented by leading developments in theoretical and computational approaches. These include novel rare event simulations based on transition path sampling, the interaction between nanoscale structures and external fields, the transformation pathways between self-assembled structures and the interpretation of experimental data.
The Group is also heavily involved in teaching of the School of Physics. The group runs several undergraduate lecture courses and final year project students have opportunities to undertake experimental work using state-of-the-art equipment.
The research interests of the group include the development of model particle systems, such as self-assembled colloidal rods, patchy colloids, biomimetic mebranes and self-propelled particles, and the study of their properties using both real space and scattering techniques.
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