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Tree Group April 2021. (Back) Lars Nelson, Pierre Kawak, Mark McDonald, Dakota Banks, Ian Timothy; (Front) Doug Tree, Qinyu Zhu, Alyssa Bagoyo, Connor Anderson, Kris-Tyan Streeter
Theory of Soft Matter and Complex FluidsSoft matter is a discipline that studies materials like polymers, colloids, liquid crystals and biological matter with degrees of freedom that can be excited by thermal energy. Complex fluids is a closely related field that looks at the dynamics of soft materials, which typically have non-Newtonian (e.g. viscoelastic) behavior.
Soft matter has an intellectual history dating at least as far back as the discovery of polymers in the early 20th century. In the 1980's rapid progress re-invigorated the discipline, culminating with a Nobel Prize to Pierre Gilles de Gennes for expliting the theoretical parallels between hard and soft condensed matter.
Currently, the polymers/soft materials/complex fluids nexxus is a very active area of research and has strong historical and intellectual ties to Chemical engineering. Promising applications span the mundane to the spectacular including (among many others) sustainable polymers, organic electronics, active materials and nanoscale emulsions and dispersions.