Soft Matter Physics

Research Group

Our Research

Soft Matter Physics

Liquids, colloids, polymers, foams, gels, membranes, biological materials and therefore life itself are just a handful of examples of soft matter.

Soft matter can be found throughout industrial and technological applications. Whether it’s packaging, adhesives, detergents, cosmetics, medicines, fuels, rubber tyres, or paints, soft matter physics is central and essential to understanding, designing and optimising these products.

Research within the Soft Matter Group at Leeds is primarily experimental with an equal focus on fundamental and applied aspects. We are interested in a wide range of different soft matter materials including liquid crystals, polymers and biopolymers, glasses, and colloids.
Cellulose is the world’s most abundant organic polymer. It’s an inexhaustible source of raw material offering environmentally friendly, biocompatible products. Unfortunately processing of cellulose is either highly polluting or energy consuming. With today’s need for “greener” materials and more sustainable processing routes; new, innovative process strategies are urgently needed.
The carpet that keeps your feet from freezing on cold winter mornings is probably made from nylon. Sometimes carpets are treated with polytetrafluoroethylene to make them stain resistant.
French fries are loaded with a polymer called starch, which your body digests into sugar to use as fuel.
Toothbrush bristles were the first things ever made from nylon.
Nappies are full of polymers. They are made of polyethylene, use elastic made from natural rubber to keep them from leaking but most importantly they're packed with polyacrylic acid, a member of the acrylate family of polymers that absorb lots of moisture.
Cell division in biological systems uses processes that can be explained using liquid crystal processes.
The spontaneous symmetry breaking that occurs on formation of a liquid crystal phase has been used to understand the inhomogeneous structure of the universe as a whole that formed within the first femtosecond of the Universe.
Liquid crystals were first discovered by a botanist studying extracts taken from carrots.