This group, established in the early 1970's as the "Liquid Crystals" group at RRI has made very important contributions to the field of liquid crystals over the past few decades. Notable among them are discoveries of the columnar phase formed by disc-like molecules, pressure induced mesomorphism, the biaxial smectic A phase and the undulating twist grain boundary C* phase. However, liquid crystals are only a type of a larger class of materials - soft condensed matter, comprising a variety of physical states that are easily deformed by thermal or mechanical stresses, thermal fluctuations or by the application of weak external fields.
In recent years, the "Liquid Crystals" group at RRI has diversified its interests to other forms of soft matter systems such as colloids, polymers, biological systems, self-assembled systems and nano-composites.
Liquid Crystals, Nano-composites and Polyelectrolytes: Research in this area deals with thermotropic liquid crystals consisting of highly anisotropic organic molecules, design, synthesis and characterization of a number of monomeric, oligomeric, polymeric and ionic liquid crystalline materials that show remarkable electronic and optoelectronic properties and functionalization of nano-composites by incorporating nano-materials like metal-nanoparticles, quantum dots, carbon nano-tubes and graphene in the supramolecular order of liquid crystals. That apart, investigations into the electric field induced chiral symmetry breaking in liquid crystals made up of achiral molecules and dielectric spectroscopy studies to understand the structure and dynamics of polyelectrolytes, some of which also exhibit coacervation, are also underway.
Self-assembled systems, DNA surfactant complexes and polymers: The effect of adsorbing counterions on the phase behaviour of ionic surfactants, especially the conditions that lead to stable novel aggregate morphologies and phases, are being explored both experimentally and theoretically. X-ray diffraction studies of the structure of DNA-cationic surfactant complexes and studies of the organization and orientation of biologically important sterol molecules on lipid membranes are currently one of the main focus areas of research by the SCM group.
Colloids and complex fluids: Research in this area predominantly comprises the structure, dynamics and rheology of non-Newtonian fluids and aging suspensions, soft glassy rheology, flow-structure correlations in complex fluids, interfacial instabilities, the stability of colloidal suspensions, the sedimentation of colloidal gels, micellar packings and controlled, targeted drug delivery using copolymer micelles as vehicles.
Biological Physics: Research in this area is mainly concerned with understanding dynamical phenomena in cells at various levels, starting from nanoscale molecular structures that dominate interactions in DNA to protein segregation and signalling at the cell membrane that preserves homeostasis. Other areas, such as in-vitro single molecule dynamics, protein-membrane interactions, active mechanical responses of neuronal cells are also of interest to the group. This branch of the SCM group is growing fast in collaboration with theoreticians and experimentalists working on membranes, polymers and statistical physics.
Theoretical Studies: Theoretical work done by the group broadly concerns the theory of elasticity and topological defects in soft matter. Attempts are being made to formulate a phenomenological theory based upon the interplay between elasticity and topological defects to explain the stability of the varied morphologies seen in solution- and melt-grown polymer crystallites.