Physics Colloquium: Shape Sculpting and Shapeshifting with Soft Matter
Prof. Timothy Atherton, Tufts University
Abstract: Soft materials are ubiquitous in biology and are ideal candidates for advanced engineering applications including soft, biomimetic robots, self-building machines, shape-shifters, artificial muscles, and chemical delivery packages. In many of these, the material must make a dramatic change in shape with an accompanying re-ordering of the material; in others changes in the ordering can be used to drive or even interrupt shape change. To optimize the materials and structures, it is necessary to have a detailed understanding of how the microstructure and macroscopic shape co-evolve. In this talk, I will therefore discuss the interactions between order and shape evolution with examples primarily drawn from my group’s work on emulsions, liquid crystals and other soft materials. To develop the description, we draw upon differential geometry, topology, optimization theory and computer simulations.