Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Oxford
Dates: Sep 2013-Aug 2014
Summary: Interfaces divide all phases of matter and yet in most practical settings it is tempting to ignore their energies and the associated implications. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the introduction of a new pair of hard to grapple with variables—the interfacial energy and surface area. A key set of questions surrounding the treatment of a wide range of processes concerns how and when we must account for such effects. My research is based on the basic theory of lower-dimensional phase transitions and their mathematical implications and describes a range of situations in which the bulk behavior of a two-phase (and in some cases two-component) system is dominated by surface effects. I examine a number of settings in which the bulk and surface behavior can interact on equal footing. These include the dynamic and thermodynamic behavior of floating sea ice, the freezing and drying of colloidal suspensions (such as soil) and the mechanisms of planetesimal formation by particle-particle collisions in accretion discs.