Research Fellows Directory
Professor Michael Cates FRS
University of Cambridge
Soft materials include colloids, polymers, emulsions, foams, surfactant solutions, powders, and liquid crystals. Domestic examples are (respectively) paint, engine oil, mayonnaise, shaving cream, shampoo, talk and the slimy mess that appears when a bar of soap is left in contact with a water. High tech examples of each type are used in drug delivery, health foods, environmental cleanup, electronic displays, and in many other sectors of the economy. Soft materials also include the lubricant that stops our joints scraping together, blood, mucus, and the internal skeleton that controls the mechanics of individual cells.
My work involves theoretical and large scale computer simulation studies of these materials. My goal is to advance our scientific understanding of the generic, as well as the specific, connections between how a material is made and what its final properties are. As soft materials become more complex and sophisticated, they will increasingly involve microstructured and composite architectures created from components that may be living, synthetic, or a combination of the two. Understanding properly the interactions between these components should one day allow us to create new materials by intentional design, rather than simply trying out various ideas and hoping that one of them works.