Research relating to colloidal suspensions, surfactants and polymers. Significantly, biology is almost entirely made up of ‘living soft matter’ – globular proteins are colloids, DNA is a stiff polymer, and the lipids forming cell membranes are essentially surfactants. Soft matter has been studied by chemists, chemical engineers and biologists for many years. It is increasingly clear, however, that these systems show generic properties independent of chemical details. For example, all polymers share certain properties simply because they are long strings of balls performing Brownian motion. This is the central reason why physicists are getting interested. Studying the generic properties of soft matter can give fresh insights into a broad range of fundamental questions that cut across the whole of condensed matter physics, e.g. concerning the nature of disordered solids.

Soft Matter Physics research at the University of Edinburgh

Image: Detail from Blanco et al. , underlying data: Blanco, Elena; Hodgson, Daniel JM; Hermes, Michiel; Besseling, Rut; Hunter, Gary L; Chaikin, Paul M; Cates, Michael E; Van Damme, Isabella; Poon, Wilson CK. (2019). Conching chocolate is a prototypical transition from frictionally jammed solid to flowable suspension with maximal solid content, [dataset]. University of Edinburgh. School of Physics. Institute for Condensed Matter and Complex Systems.

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