Soft materials are those in which the thermal energy is a relevant energy scale. Soft matter has often been epitomized by colloidal particles which follow statistical mechanics like atoms and molecules. However colloids are readily perturbed from equilibrium and exhibit far-from-equilibrium phenomena pivotal in the development of a new non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, revolutionizing the concepts underpinning many landmarks of condensed matter. Real space analysis, i.e. tracking the coordinates of such particles (with confocal microscopy for 3D systems) constituted a major breakthrough in the field in which coordinates of the constituent particles were obtained to yield a level of detail usually accessible only to computer simulation, yet in an experiment.
Colloidal breaking wave
Colloidal particle gallaxy
Working in this area
For more information about work within this field see Professor Paddy Royall's website