Soft Matter Physics

Liquid crystal being heated under pressure

We investigate the physics of soft matter systems – materials that include liquid crystals, polymers and biopolymers, glasses, composites, gels and colloids. Our work is primarily experimental; we explore fundamental properties of soft materials and link our discoveries to applications and devices.  Recent highlights include: the discovery of a synthetic molecular auxetic material (its thickness increases when strained); producing lightweight, strong, single component composites from sustainable resources; and finding gel solutions for Li+ batteries.

Real-world and scientific impact

As well as publishing our research in top journals, we translate our findings to industry.  For example, our cost-effective process for manufacturing lightweight, high-impact resistant polymer composites (Curv®) was commercialised in applications including Samsonite luggage and anti-ballistic body armour. Our research into switchable focus contact lenses led to the formation of the spin-out company, Dynamic Vision Systems Ltd. The group collaborates with Merck chemicals on Non-Display Applications of Liquid Crystals, leading to innovations including polarization-insensitive switchable liquid crystal lenses. We also work iwth DisplayData, QioptiQ and Ultravison on liquid crystals and their applications; Victrex and Propex on polymer composites; QinetiQ and Polystore on polymer gel electrolytes for lithium battery applications; Innovia Films on cellulose processing.


We have superb experimental facilities to evaluate, characterise and test soft materials and devices and a clean-room prototyping laboratory equipped for glass device processing for use with liquid crystal based and other soft-matter devices.

  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) including temperature modulation,
  • Mechanical testing (Fracture, creep, modulus Impact testing), Rheology (Strain - and stress-controlled shear rheology), Dynamic Mechanical Testing (Tension and torsion),
  • Optical microscopy (Image analysis, polarising and UV, laser tweezers), 3D Photon correlation spectroscopy and Raman microscopy.
  • Electro-optic and device addressing analysis, Broadband Dielectric Relaxation Spectroscopy,
  • X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (400MHz solid state, Imaging, diffusion and rheology).

Research team

Further information

View our publications.

Visit our soft matter research group website.

PhD projects

We have opportunities for prospective postgraduate researchers. Find out more.

Contact us

If you are interested in collaborating with us or joining our research team, please get in touch with a relevent member of staff.