Soft Matter is a sub-discipline of condensed matter and focusses upon chemical and biological matter that is easily deformed by thermal forces or fluctuations. These materials show their most interesting behaviour at energy scales on the order of kBT.
Examples include polymers, liquid crystals, gels, surfactants (soaps), and almost all materials of biological interest.
Of great recent interest is the subject of rotaxanes. Rotaxanes are molecules where one or more ring components is threaded onto an axle that is capped on both ends with stoppers to prevent the rings from falling off.
This field has long been the preserve of people making rotaxanes, i.e. synthetic chemists. However, these systems exhibit fascinating and complex physics, and this makes the field ripe for invesitgation by physicists.
Our recent work has focussed on the fact that mobile rings have translational entropy, which can be manipulated to provide a force - much like a one-dimensional gas. Other work involves the effect of potential stripes on the axle.
The list of pojects in this area is rather large and little previous work has been done. Examples include :
- the physics of threading (i.e. rotaxane creation)
- The effect of interactions between the rings.
- Rotational Isomerism.
- Rotaxane gels.
- Polyrotaxanes - i.e. rotaxanes threaded onto polymers.
All these projects are either theory or simulation (or both), and will be carried out in collaboration with Prof. Edie Sevick in the Research School of Chemistry at ANU.