Soft matter

Lecturer(s): Denis MAZUYER
Course ⋅ 16 hPW ⋅ 4 hStudy ⋅ 8 h


Many complex molecular systems (synthetic or natural) are used, in very low concentration, to control functions such as detergency, coating capability, anti-icing, therapeutic targeting, ... by giving a very strong response to a very weak control signal (mechnical, electrical, mechanical, thermal). These technologies are based upon of a strong state of division of matter which leads to the creation of large interfaces between immiscible liquids or between solid and liquids. At these submicrometric scales, the force balances prevailing at the macroscopic level are completely changedand the surface forces govern directly the physics of these nano-systems, which makes them difficult to stabilize and therefore to condition. The aim of the course is to present the fundamental processes governing the dynamics of this particular state of matter called "colloidal" state and to understand the physicochemical and rheological properties of common objects (soaps, lubricants, drugs, food, cosmetics, paints, cells. ) in variable applications ranging from biotechnology to civil engineering.


Wetting, adhesion, rheology, colloids, biotechnology, physco-chemistry of interfaces, solution of polymers, self-assembly


The colloidal state

  • Definition, classification, main properties and characterization methods
  • Self-assembled molecular systems

Colloidal physico-chemistry

  • Dispersions, emulsions and biomedical aspects
  • Colloids for diagnosis and in biotechnology

Wetting and capillarity

  • Wetting and intermolecular forces
  • Wetting dynamics

Solutions of polymers

  • Chain conformations: role of the solvent
  • Polymer at interfaces for colloidal stability

Flow properties of soft matter

  • Introduction to rheology : models and experimental methods
  • Rheology of diluted and concentrated suspensions : role of colloidal interactions

Learning Outcomes

  • To estimate the influence of the structure of soft materials on their properties and to modify surfaces to impart a desired functionality to them
  • To obtain a theoretical understanding of the physics of soft condensed matter
  • To design microscopic materials made from colloidal buildling blocks, stable emulsions and dispersions
  • To obtain an insight of some experimental techniques that are relevant for investigating soft material physics.


Final mark = 2/3 Knowledge + 1/3 Know-how

Knowledge = 50% final exam + 50% continuous assessment

Know-how = 50% final exam + 50% continuous assessment