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Soft Matter - Theoretical and Industrial Challenges


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7th September 2016 to 9th September 2016


Sam Edwards was a pivotal figure in soft matter physics. Taking forward the work of earlier theorists working in other areas such as quantum field theory, he had the vision to harness the power of mathematical tools to study this new class of materials, and base our understanding of them on a more rigorous foundation. Sir Sam combined his deep theoretical knowledge with a clear view of the way that theoretical science can help resolve practical engineering and industrial problems and managed on many occasions to bring theorists and industrialists to work together.

Soft matter is defined loosely as matter that can display properties intermediate between liquid and solid behaviour, depending on timescales, temperature and flow conditions. It encompasses a broad range of materials, from powders and colloidal suspensions to flexible long-chain polymers and solutions of amphiphilic, or soap-like, molecules. All these are not only ubiquitous in Industry but also arise in many biological contexts.

Today, there continues to be fundamental theoretical interest in the underlying physics and self-organising mechanisms present in soft materials. Many of these share a common mathematical structure that can be exploited for theoretical advances. The legacy of Sam Edwards includes not only the specific scientific advances he made (for instance in entangled polymer rheology and in the packing of powders) but also the many mathematical tools he developed, and his broader realization that whole classes of soft material are governed by unifying physical principles that stem from the geometry and topology of their microscopic components, independent of their precise molecular or chemical character.

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University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons