Ruprecht Karls Universität Heidelberg

Theory of soft and biomatter

This course provides an introduction to the theoretical concepts used to describe the equilibrium properties of soft matter. Soft matter is condensed matter which is characterized by energy scales close to thermal energy and length scales larger than atomic length scales. Then a small elastic modulus results and thermal noise is sufficient to induce structural changes. This outstanding property of soft matter systems allows them to self-organize and to self-heal. Soft matter includes material systems like colloidal suspensions, liquid crystals, fluid-fluid interfaces, fluid membranes and polymers. It also includes biomatter, like the lipid bilayer and the filamentous proteins of the cytoskeleton. We will start by discussing important molecular and colloidal interactions. We then will turn to the statistical mechanics of simple and complex fluids which results from these interactions, in particular phase behaviour. Next we deal with low-dimensional objects (strings and surfaces), which determine the properties of many soft matter systems. In particular, we deal with interfaces, membranes and polymers. We finally introduce the basic concepts from elasticity theory and hydrodynamics, which often are important in soft matter and biological physics. Throughout the whole course, applications to biological systems will be emphasized.

The course is designed for students of physics and related disciplines after the Vordiplom / Bachelor and is given in German. It takes place every Wednesday from 2.15 - 3.45 pm at HS2 at the Hoersaalgebaeude Physik (INF 308). Every two weeks the solutions to the exercises will be discussed in a tutorial run by Dr. Thorsten Erdmann (4 pm in a seminar room in the Bioquant-building). A basic understanding of statistical mechanics is sufficient to attend. No lectures take place on Jan 13 (dies academicus) and Feb 3 (study week).


Additional material

Recommended reading

  • SA Safran, Statistical thermodynamics of surfaces, interfaces, and membranes, Addison-Wesley, Reading 1994
  • KA Dill and S Bromberg, Molecular driving forces : statistical thermodynamics in chemistry and biology, Garland Sci. 2003

Additional reading

  • R. Phillips, J. Kondev and J. Theriot, Physical Biology of the Cell, Garland Sci. 2009
  • PM Chaikin and TC Lubensky, Principles of condensed matter physics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995
  • DF Evans and H Wennerström, The colloidal domain: where physics, chemistry, and biology meet, 2nd edition, Wiley 1998
  • RAL Jones, Soft condensed matter, Oxford University Press 2002
  • R Lipowsky and E Sackmann, Eds., Structure and Dynamics of Membranes, Elsevier, Amsterdam 1995
  • LD Landau and EM Lifschitz, Elastizitätstheorie, Band VII des Lehrbuchs für Theoretische Physik, Akademie Verlag, 1991
  • M Doi and SF Edwards, The theory of polymer dynamics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986
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