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Monday 20th May 2019

Isaac Newton Institute

United Kingdom


Mathematics is a key enabler in ensuring that technological advances in complex materials continue. It is integral to the design of various classes of materials, from solids, through to soft matter types. There is however, a need to improve theoretical understanding and modelling in this area, which to date, has so far been quite inadequate. Mathematical modelling can help to speed up complex material development, as well as promoting greater potential of actual applications.

Soft matter materials include liquids, colloids, polymers, foams, gels, granular materials, liquid crystals and a number of biological materials.They have a number of shared characteristics including their ease of deformation by external forces, the relatively large role of thermal fluctuations,  and their being governed by unifying physical principles arising from the geometry, topology and qualitative behaviour of their microscopic components. Often their properties are universal, regardless of their detailed molecular or chemical character.

This knowledge exchange workshop was part of the six months Research Programme at the Isaac Newton Institute (INI) on The Mathematical design of new materials. It followed on from a similar event which featured solid complex materials in February and brings together mathematicians and scientists working in various areas of materials science and applied mathematics in order to initiate a systematic study of the optimal design of new complex materials.

Aims and Objectives

This workshop aimed to highlight the importance of state-of-art mathematical modelling for complex soft matter material development. Models and basic understanding is not just of theoretical interest, but indeed is a  key requirement for being able to access and further develop the true potential of these materials - to optimise them, to combine them into new materials, and to use them for creating new devices, with predefined abilities and behaviours. This was reflected in a progamme for the day which included talks representing academic research and end-users perspectives from a number of industries and application areas. The three sessions that were covered were:

  • Photonics and electronics
  • Biological sciences and drug design
  • Novel soft matter materials

The focus for the day was on complex soft matter materials. Talks from academic and industry speakers covered a number of interesting materials design advances and challenges in areas such as:

  • Development of high-performing displays, including using transistor technologies for flexible displays and thin film applications
  • Advanced material design - including concepts of topology and mathematics and harnessing control of the flow of light at the microscopic scale
  • Mathematical tools  to develop novel biological drugs
  • How processes in the development of drug design can be optimised

There was also a session on novel soft matter materials. Talks highlighted areas such as sensors, insulating materials, DNA based matter, self-healing materials with exchangeable bonds solids, plamonics.
This workshop brought together mathematicians and scientists working in various areas of soft matter/materials science, with end users from industry to further investigate opportunities in mathematical modelling to enable optimal design of complex new materials.


There was a poster exhibition which ran alongside the workshop and during the drinks reception. 

Registration and Venue

A registration fee was charged to cover direct costs of attendance at this event. This was £25 for academic and public sector attendees and £50 for industrial attendees. 

There was no fee for registered participants of the INI The Mathematical Design of New Materials Programme.

The workshop took place at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge. Please see the Isaac Newton Institute website for further information about the venue.