M3. Colloid/polymer composites
Many consumer products involve mixtures of colloids and polymers (or emulsion droplets and polymers) in suspension; the polymers generally cause an attraction between the colloidal particles creating a long-lived gel whose ultimate fate controls the shelf-life of the product. We are working to establish design principles that will allow us to control: physical aging in colloidal-polymer gels induced by steady or oscillatory stress; the kinetic pathways underlying phase separation, coarsening and nucleation in such gels; the aging of polymer/ nanoparticle composites relevant to energy materials. We have the same aims for emulsion-polymer gels, where fast progress should be possible due to the low baseline of current knowledge.