Science Breakfast: Why Does Soft Matter Matter?

Hosted by Mars, Incorporated


Abstract

Soft matter is everywhere, from the tissues in our bodies to the colloids we have for breakfast. But how could a physicist care more about mayonnaise than the cosmic microwave background?

In this Science Breakfast hosted by Mars, Incorporated, Professor Steven Chu (1997 Nobel laureate in physics), Dr. Antonio Redondo (Senior Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA), and a selected young scientist will discuss the importance of soft matter and its unique behaviors.

Soft matter is a term that was made popular by a team of scientists around Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, the father of the field who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1991. It refers to a wide variety of materials that are easily deformed by thermal fluctuations and external forces, including liquids, colloids, polymers, foams, gels, granular materials and liquid crystals.

The properties of soft matter have been crucial to the development of new technologies that have changed the way we live. The study of liquid crystals in the 1960s made possible the development of liquid crystal displays that we now use in practically all phone, computer and television screens.

The panelists will explore the latest discoveries in soft matter, what innovations we can expect in future and how physicists can contribute to the understanding and development of many industrial processes. This could be a better understanding of the human body, it could be the development of more advanced, more sustainable materials that lower our society’s energy consumption.

07:00–07:30 Breakfast
07:30–08:40 Discussion

Professor Chu is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Humanities & Sciences and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. His laboratory aims to develop nano-probes that will allow following the dynamics of molecules in live cells and organisms indefinitely with few-nanometer spatial resolution. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for his research at Bell Laboratories developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. From 2009 to 2013, he served as the 12th United States Secretary of Energy and was a champion of renewable energies and new business models. Before his appointment by President Obama, Professor Chu was Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Redondo is a Senior Scientist in the Theory, Simulation and Computation Directorate at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Redondo joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1983 and subsequently led a team of scientists in designing a catalytic converter for a new generation of green automobiles. In 1997, Dr. Redondo was awarded a Medal for Technical Accomplishment from Vice-President Al Gore for his contributions to this project. Following his work in catalysis Dr. Redondo began work on theoretical biology problems. In 2005 he became Group Leader of the Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group and became Division Leader of the Theoretical Division in 2006. Dr. Redondo returned to full-time research in 2015 and his current interests lie in the development of models and simulation for soft matter.


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