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Soft matter quasicrystals: when can they exist and when will we observe them?

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Regular patterns (made of tiles) and crystals (made of either atoms/molecules) surround us in everyday life. These patterns look the same when moved by one unit (translational symmetry) or rotated by certain special angles (rotational symmetry). Such repeating arrangements are prevalent in nature as lesser amount of energy is required to assemble them. Aperiodic patterns or quasicrystals are special as they possess long range order without translational symmetry. Quasicrystals have recently been observed in a variety of systems such as nanoparticles, metallic alloys and polymer solutions. Considering the difference in scale between metallic and polymeric quasicrystals, there is a need for mathematical models which explore unifying mechanisms. We begin by exploring phase field crystal models to identify the ingredients that allow for the formation of soft matter quasicrystals. We then go on to a more realistic density functional theoretic model, where we identify features in the particle pair interaction potentials which can suppress or encourage density modes with wavenumbers associated with one of the regular crystalline orderings that compete with quasicrystals, enabling either the enhancement or suppression of quasicrystals.

About the speaker: Dr Priya Subramanian is a Hooke Research Fellow at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Leeds School of Mathematics. In 2017, she was awarded L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science UK Fellowship as PI. Her research interests lie in understanding mechanisms that govern spatio-temporal patterns and emergent behaviours in systems such as thermacoustic systems, and transistional (convective/shear) flows of fluids. Her area of expertise also includes the fields of nonlinear dynamics and delay differential equations. Currently she is working on emergent behavior in active fluids such as the motion of organelle filaments on motility assays and in the formation of quasipatterns – patterns that never repeat and yet seem the same when rotated appropriately.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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