Fundamentals of Soft Matter Science: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Fundamentals of Soft Matter Science

1st Edition

By Linda S. Hirst

CRC Press

246 pages | 138 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2012-11-06
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Soft materials such as liquid crystals, polymers, biomaterials, and colloidal systems touch every aspect of our lives. Not surprisingly, the rapid growth of these fields over the past few decades has resulted in an explosion of soft matter research groups worldwide. Fundamentals of Soft Matter Science introduces and explores the scientific study of soft matter and molecular self-assembly, covering the major classifications of materials, their structure and characteristics, and everyday applications.

Designed for beginners to the field with a basic scientific background, this readable book emphasizes conceptual understanding, minimizing detailed mathematical derivations. Each chapter is dedicated to a different group of soft materials, including liquid crystals, surfactants, polymers, colloids, and soft biomaterials. Each subject is broken down into the essential concepts: material structures and physical characteristics, some simple theoretical ideas, and important experimental methods. The book emphasizes commonly used experimental techniques and practical applications. Full color illustrations and photographs are incorporated throughout to help describe the systems and key concepts.


"The publication is written at a very fundamental level, which will make it easily readable for undergraduate students. It will certainly also be a valuable text for students and postgraduates in interdisciplinary programmes, as not only physical aspects, but also the chemistry and applications are presented and discussed. … The book is well illustrated, and I really do like the examples and pictures provided for simple demonstration experiments, which can be done during the lectures. Also, the experimental techniques chapter at the end of the book may be helpful. The question sections are helpful to deepen the understanding of the learned concepts."

—Ingo Dierking, Liquid Crystals Today, Vol. 23, 2014

"… a welcome addition … succeeds in giving a broad overview and conveying the fascination of the field."

—Hans M. Wyss, Physics Today, November 2013

"A nicely structured book that is at the right level for undergraduates. I’ll recommend it for our soft matter course and to others."

—Professor Helen F. Gleeson, University of Manchester

"Broader in coverage than existing texts … a very good introduction to the field of soft matter."

—Professor Gary Bryant, RMIT University, Melbourne

Table of Contents


Learning Objectives

What Is Soft Matter?

Basic Thermal Physics

Intermolecular Forces

Diffusion and Random Walks


The Phase Diagram

Aggregation and Assembly

Mechanical Properties of Soft Matter


The Concept of Soft Materials and Their Characteristics

Review of Thermal Physics

Review the Mechanical Properties of Materials


Further Reading

Liquid Crystals

Learning Objectives

Introduction to Liquid Crystals

Anisotropy in Liquid Crystals

The Order Parameter

Thermotropic and Lyotropic Liquid Crystals

Birefringence in Liquid Crystals

Defect Textures

Thermotropic Liquid Crystal Phases

Experimental Techniques

Applications of Liquid Crystals


The Characteristics of Liquid Crystal Materials

Anisotropy and Birefringence

The Structure of Liquid Crystal Phases

Experimental Techniques and Liquid Crystal Technologies


Further Reading


Learning Objectives


Types of Surfactants

Surface Tension and Surfactants

Self-Assembly and Phase Behavior

Membrane Elasticity and Curvature

Applications of Surfactants

Experimental Methods


Physical and Chemical Properties of Surfactants

The Hydrophobic Effect

The Importance of Molecular Shape on Phase Structure and Membrane Curvature

Applications and Experiments


Further Reading


Learning Objectives


Early Polymers

Polymer Structure

Liquid Crystal Polymers

Polymer Solutions

The Glassy and Polymer Melt Phases

The Mechanical Properties of Polymers

Experimental Techniques


Polymer Architecture

Polymers in Solution

Experimental Methods


Further Reading

Colloidal Materials

Learning Objectives


Characteristics of Colloidal Systems

Colloids in Suspension

Competing Forces in Colloidal Dispersions

Interparticle Interactions

Colloidal Aggregation

Colloidal Crystals

Granular Materials


Experimental Techniques


Characteristics of Colloidal Systems

Colloidal Aggregation and Dispersion

Experimental Techniques


Further Reading

Soft Biological Materials

Learning Objectives


The Composition of the Cell

The Cell Membrane

Protein Structures and Assemblies

Experimental Techniques


Biomaterials as Soft Matter

Experimental Techniques


Further Reading


Appendix A: The Fourier Transform

Appendix B: Physical Constants and Conversions

Appendix C: Laue Scattering Theory

Appendix D: Entropy and Thermodynamic Equilibrium

Appendix E: The Amino Acids


About the Author

Linda S. Hirst, Ph.D., is a professor of physics at the University of California, Merced, where she runs a soft matter experimental research group and teaches introductory physics and condensed matter physics.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Physics
SCIENCE / Solid State Physics