Physics and mechanics of granular and biological systems

Equipment/facility: lab


    Physics of Granular and Amorphous Solids
    Granular and amorphous (disordered) solids are a condensed form of matter which show elastic response but lack periodic structure. In our group we use simulations and theory to try to explain different aspects of these materials with emphasis on an irreversibility transition which we have recently co-discovered. The irreversibility transition is a non-equilibrium phase transition in which an amorphous solid subject to oscillatory forcing transitions between reversible and irreversible behavior. Since the phase transition occurs in a system that is not in thermodynamic equilibrium, it cannot be explained by studying the free-energy and we have to develop novel methods to understand it. Specifically, we are working on a theory in which the set of stable configurations of the system is mapped into a random network. By studying the topology of this network and developing theories that explain it, we hope to understand the energy landscape and dynamics of amorphous solids and the irreversibility transition.
    Biophysics and Pattern Formation in Growing Plants
    Similarly to animals, plants sense their environment and respond to changes. This includes the direction at which gravity acts, the humidity of the soil and the concentration of nutrients. However, contrary to animals, plants respond to their environment by changing their modes of growth since they cannot move. The growth itself is also affected by the mechanical properties of the plant and its environment. The feedback between growth and sensing can give rise to unusual growth patterns which were observed under laboratory conditions. When grown on tilted plates, roots of certain plants grow in a wavy pattern and when the plates are flat, they form circles. We work on understanding these growth patterns using lab experiments and theoretical models.

    Equipment (significant):
    Computer farm (part of university cluster)


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