Understanding Soft Glassy Materials using an Energy Landscape approach

Many soft materials, such as toothpaste, living cells, and mayonnaise, display similar flow behavior under deformation despite being structurally different on a microscopic scale and the physical understanding of this phenomenon has long remained unknown. Understanding the flow behavior of different materials is important to engineer their properties; we wouldn't want our shaving cream to instantly drip down our faces or have it be too solid to be unable to apply it.
My research focuses on numerically simulating foam dynamics given the difficulties of experimentally doing so due to foams structural complexity and opaqueness. Below is our simulation of foam slowly ripening over time.

To our knowledge, this is the first 3D microscopic simulation that successfully replicates physical foam dynamics. With this system, we simulated the trajectory of foam particles (shown as single bubbles) in configuration space and performed various statistical analysis to derive a mathematical relationship between the configurational path taken by the bubbles and their flow behavior.

We extend this conclusion to suggest that soft materials may display similar flow behaviors, despite their differences in microscopic structure, if they share similar characteristics in their configuration space paths.

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Understanding Soft Glassy Materials using an Energy Landscape Approach

Hyun Joo Hwang, Robert A. Riggleman, John C. Crocker
Nature Materials 15, 1031–1036 (2016).


I am a computational scientist finishing my PhD at U of Penn. I picked up programming coming into graduate school and after years of computational research, I'm amazed by what data can do. I love to use data analytics to find trends, which when exposed, empower people to make informed decisions about the world they live in. I'm also the co-founder of Penn Data Science Group.