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Designing and Understanding Topological Soft Matter

   School of Chemistry

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  Dr D Chakrabarti  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A PhD place is available on a project themed on designing and understanding topological soft matter, using theory and computation [1-5], with Dr Dwaipayan Chakrabarti at the University of Birmingham.

A recent computational study by Chakrabarti and co-workers has unravelled the topological nature of the liquid-liquid phase transition (LLPT) in tetrahedral liquids [1]. The first-order phase transition between two liquids of different density was introduced as a hypothesis three decades ago to account for the anomalous behaviour of an array of thermodynamic properties of water. Although a growing body of work in recent years has provided strong support to this hypothesis, a clear microscopic picture that fundamentally distinguishes the two liquid networks has remained elusive. Our recent study reveals that the LLPT in a colloidal model of water, which we developed by exploiting a two-stage self-assembly scheme for synthetically available designer colloidal particles [5], as well as in molecular water, occurs between an unentangled low-density liquid (LDL) and an entangled high-density liquid (HDL), the latter containing an ensemble of topologically non-trivial motifs, such as knots and links. This radically new perspective of LLPT at the microscopic level sets the foundation for further theoretical investigation in tetrahedral liquids in particular, and network liquids in general, from a topological perspective, which this PhD project will undertake. To this end, the successful applicant will develop, adapt, and apply a variety of computational methods, underpinned by the theories of statistical mechanics, phase transitions and topological physics.

The project will build on collaborations with Prof. Francesco Sciortino of Sapienza Università di Roma and Prof. Mark Dennis of the University of Birmingham.

Person specification:

Applicants are expected to have a Master’s degree in chemistry / physics / materials science / chemical engineering or in a related discipline at the upper second class level.

How to apply:

For further details on the project and informal enquiry, please visit and contact Dr Dwaipayan Chakrabarti at [Email Address Removed]


Representative publications:
1. A. Neophytou, D. Chakrabarti and F. Sciortino, Topological Nature of the Liquid-Liquid Phase Transition in Tetrahedral Liquids, Nat. Phys. 18, 1248 (2022).
2. A. Neophytou, D. Chakrabarti and F. Sciortino, Facile Self-Assembly of Colloidal Diamond from Tetrahedral Patchy Particles via Ring Selection, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 118, e2109776118 (2021).
3. A. Neophytou, V. N. Manoharan and D. Chakrabarti, Self-Assembly of Patchy Colloidal Rods into Photonic Crystals Robust to Stacking Faults, ACS Nano 15, 2668 (2021).
4. A. B. Rao, J. Shaw, A. Neophytou, D. Morphew, F. Sciortino, R. L. Johnston and D. Chakrabarti, Leveraging Hierarchical Self-Assembly Pathways for Realizing Colloidal Photonic Crystals, ACS Nano 14, 5348 (2020).
5. D. Morphew, J. Shaw, C. Avins and D. Chakrabarti, Programming Hierarchical Self-Assembly of Patchy Particles into Colloidal Crystals via Colloidal Molecules, ACS Nano 12, 2355 (2018).

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