I plan to investigate, by means of computer simulations, the role of solvent flow in colloidal phenomena such as crystal nucleation and gel formation. Besides, I aim to rationalise the mechanical properties of colloidal gels in terms of the properties of their building blocks and of their route of formation. Colloids are particles of size about a millionth of a metre dispersed in a solvent. Due to their much larger size, materials made out of colloids display new properties with respect to their atomic counterparts, and these can be exploited for technological, industrial or medical purposes. In order to build new colloidal materials it is essential to understand the dynamics of the process through which they form. In particular, it is crucial to understand how both the interaction potential and the solvent flow affect the behaviour of a colloidal suspension on its way towards a colloidal material. Although the influence of the former has already received quite some attention, the role of hydrodynamics has been much less studied thus far. The target of this research programme is to fill this gap for two important colloidal phenomena: crystal nucleation and gel formation. Besides, a rationalisation of the mechanical properties of colloidal gels will be attempted. I expect my work to substantially enhance the understanding of these non-equilibrium processes. This, in turn, should contribute to the design of colloidal materials such as crystals or gels as well as to a better control of the mechanical properties of the latter.
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