Soft Matter is a sub-discipline of condensed matter and focusses upon chemical & biological matter that is easily deformed by thermal forces or fluctuations. These materials show their most interesting behaviour/properties at energy scales on the order of kT where classical (as opposed to quantum) physics dominate. Unlike classically hard condensed matter, the properties of soft matter cannot be understood solely from the atomic constituents, their bonding, and enthalpic interactions. Instead, soft matter is characterised by mesoscopic self-organisation of many molecules (e.g. self-assembly) and/or by a large number of internal degrees of freedom, as exhibited in the flexibility and number of conformer structures of a single DNA molecule or synthetic polymer).
Soft materials exist in a wide variety of equilibrium and metastable states that are easily perturbed by external fields --more simply stated, these are highly responsive materials and consequently hold potential in many applications. This group is interested in energy paths of soft matter, as for example, the work required to stretch a single DNA molecule or to propel a colloid near a liquid interface or membrane surface. Our experimental tools are pico-Newton-scale force measurement devices, such as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Optical Tweezers (OT), while our predictive efforts use theory and computational methods in statistical thermodynamics.