This course deals with the physics of soft materials. As the name suggests these materials are soft to touch (e.g. jello, creams, pastes etc.) as opposed to hard ones (e.g. metals, alloys)which fall under the purview of “Solid State Physics”. The important distinction between soft materials as opposed to their hard counterparts is that entropy and not internal energy dictates their equilibrium properties. Further these materials mostly comprise of organic molecules that interact weakly and as a result their properties are strongly influenced by thermal fluctuations, external fields, and boundary effects. This strong ‘susceptibility’ of soft matter leads to many fascinating properties. We will review a few generic features of soft materials, e.g. dominance of entropy, interplay between broken-symmetry and dynamic mode structure and topological defects that are common to such systems. The outline is as follows i) Introduction to soft condensed matter physics, (ii) Liquid Crystals and Polymers (iii) Fluid Membranes, (iv) Fluctuations and response of non-equilibrium soft systems.
Buddhapriya (Buddho) is a senior lecturer in the biological physics group at the University of Sheffield. His main research interests include soft condensed matter physics and biological physics.