The Edinburgh Soft Matter and Statistical Physics Group does experiment and theory on the thermodynamics, kinetics, and flow behaviour of soft materials such as colloids, polymers, liquid crystals, amphiphiles and granular matter.
In this project we carried out a range of fundamental studies involving a combination of experiment, theory and simulation, mainly using well-characterised model systems. We extended to a wider class of model systems earlier work linking phase kinetics, arrest and glassy dynamics to the underlying interaction potentials and free energy landscapes, and studied how arrested states interact with applied stresses and other perturbations. Three new types of soft matter (binary colloidal crystals, nematic colloid mixtures, colloids in binary solvents) with potential application as functional and structural materials for optical and other applications, were studied in detail, as were three classes of biophysical complex fluids (protein solutions, mixed membranes, lipid assemblies). We also pursued related fundamental studies in nonequilibrium statistical mechanics of jamming, arrest, and the dynamics of interacting agents. The close interplay between experiment, theory and (increasingly) simulation was crucial to this project, creating significant added value to EPSRC investment.
Well over 100 publications resulted. These included important papers on
(1) Formation of clusters in concentrated protein solutions (W Poon et al, Nature 432 (2004) 492)
(2) Prediction by simulation of a new class of materials called bijels (K Stratford et al, Science 309 (2005) 2198)
(3) The first laboratory creation of these same materials (E Herzig et al, Nature Materials 6 (2007) 966)
(4) Theoretical identification of new types of phase transition in nonequilibrium systems (M Evans et al, Phys Rev Lett 97 (2006) 010602)
(5) Experimental observation of new modes of jamming and slip in flow of dense suspensions through pipes ( L Isa et al, Phys Rev Lett 98 (2007) 198305)