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Energy landscapes of soft matter: From super-cooled liquids to liquid crystals


This proposal aims at understanding thermodynamics and dynamics of soft condensed matter in terms of the underlying potential energy landscape (PEL). We are particularly interested in supercooled liquids and thermotropic liquid crystals, the latter being known to display rich phase behaviour.

Recent studies have revealed marked similarities in the dynamics between supercooled liquids and thermotropic liquid crystals, despite their diverse physical nature. Discovering a general relation between the onset of slow dynamics and the temperature-dependent exploration of the underlying PEL would be of great interest.

We aim to characterize a unifying landscape mechanism for slow dynamics in soft matter. To understand the fundamental basis for the observed similarities, we propose to characterize the PEL of a variety of model systems in terms of local minima and the transition states that connect them. Thermodynamic and dynamic properties will then be computed through simulations using methods developed in the host group.

The project will therefore combine the expertise of the applicant in soft matter with that in the energy landscape formalism of the host. A key feature of the proposal will be the treatment of orientational degrees of freedom and their interplay with translational coordinates.

The interdisciplinary nature of the proposal, with applications to diverse physical systems, would appeal to a wide scientific community. Soft condensed matter is ubiquitous in nature and finds a wide range of application s, from household use to the development of cutting-edge technologies.

Further development of fundamental knowledge of the dynamics of these systems would certainly be helpful for engineering these applications (for example, the use of liquid crystals in displays). Moreover, our approach will yield results on the phase transition characteristics of materials that are of prime technological importance in the design of novel materials.

Call for proposal

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Old Schools, Trinity Lane
United Kingdom