Laboratory for soft and complex matter studies

We study the physics of Soft condenced matter, i.e. materials which are easily deformable by external stresses, electric or magnetic fields, or by thermal fluctuations. For this, we apply the principals of complexity, i.e. "To extract physical knowledge from a complex system, one must focus on the right level of description" (From: "Simple Lessons from Complexity," Goldenfeld, Nigel & Kadanoff, Leo P., Science 284: 87-89. (Apr 2. 1999)).

 Picasso's famous bull drawing

Our science and guiding principles

Complexity means "reduction and removal of redundancy", as first defined by by the philospher John Locke (1632-1704): "Ideas thus made up of several simple ones put together, I call complex; such as beauty, gratitude, a man, an army, the universe" and as illustrated in art by Picasso in his famous bull drawing from 1945. See also the article Complexity - Systems and interplays in nature [pdf].

However, we are not doing philosophy, or art, we are doing real experiments in nanophysics and materials science: In order to understand better the relation between Complexity and Materials Science, we suggest reading Chapter 2 named: "How do Complex Phenomena Emerge from Simple Ingredients", in this Report from the National Academies of Sciences Committee on Condensed Matter and Materials Physics 2010. This means: Complex is NOT the same as complicated.

Our main physical model system is: Nano-layered silicates, or in other words CLAYS, which are soft because they are built from complex self-assembled structures of nanoparticles. We can recommend this recent book: Handbook of Clay Science 1 where the following statement can be found: "As clays and clay materials are abundant, inexpensive and environmentally friendly, they will most likely be known as the materials of the 21st century".

Other materials that we study and use as model systems for soft and complex materials are paper, zeolites, surfactants, polymers etc.
We thus wish to focus on, and study thoroughly a few physical systems, such as clays, representative for soft and complex matter, for a long time, from different points of view, using different experimental techniques, thus studying interconnected complex physical phenomena.

Our main motivations

Developing new understanding of the basic physical properties and processes in soft and complex matter from the nano scale to the.human and geological scale.
Work on universal problems of practical relevance to fields of actual importance to society, ranging from nanotechnology to environmental topics.

Our scientific keywords

  • Soft condensed matter physics
  • Nano-physics
  • Complex matter
  • Complex processes
  • Pattern formation
  • Complexity
  • Anomalous diffusion
  • Spontaneous self-assembly
  • Guided self-assembly
  • Smart materials
  • Nano-structured materials
  • Nano-particles
  • Nano-clays
  • Composite materials

Contact: Jon Otto Fossum


Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:25:58 +0100

E-field induced ring formation of clay particles on an oildroplet. Photo: Alexander Mikkelsen, Knut Kjerstad, Jon Otto Fossum

We welcome more students -

Project proposals for masterstudents [pdf]

Complex logo 
A nationally coordinated research network in Norway - University of Oslo  (UiO), Institute for Energy Technology (IFE, Kjeller), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

News in the research team