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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS5016M Soft Matter Physics: Liquid Crystals

15 creditsClass Size: 90

Module manager: Prof Cliff Jones

Taught: 1 Sep to 31 Jan (adv yr), Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications

Level 2 Phyiscs or Equivalent

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Having learnt about solids, liquids and gases, you are ready to learn some soft matter physics and liquid crystals. These are important states of matter that have intermediate order between the liquid and crystal solids. They are relevant to many aspects of science and technology, from display devices to biological. This module will provide you with the background physics behind the principal liquid crystal phases.


- To provide a broad context of the properties of soft condensed matter
- To introduce the physics of liquid crystal and amphiphilic materials and liquid crystal devices
- To make clear the connections between the physical properties of liquid crystals and their applications.

Learning outcomes
On completion successful students will be able to:
- Understand the general concepts of soft matter physics and liquid crystals.
- Demonstrate analytical thinking in the choice of methods for characterising soft materials.
- Show creativity in solving problems, particularly the ability to relate material properties to device design.
- Apply physical methods learnt during the module to new problems in liquid crystal physics and devices, and soft matter systems more widely.
- Gain understanding in research methodologies applied to liquid crystal systems
- Become more aware of the commercial aspects of the LCD industry


1. Introduction to soft matter and liquid crystals
2. Optical and electrical properties of liquid crystals
3. Electro-optic behaviour of liquid crystals and application to LCDs
4. Characterization techniques for liquid crystals.
5. Chirality in liquid crystals; consequences of breaking symmetry
6. Novel phases and future display modes
7. Amphiphilic Liquid crystals
8. Liquid crystals in biology
9. Liquid crystals at the interface with other soft matter systems; polymers, colloids and gels

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours128.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Students will be given recommended reading at key points through the course. General recommended texts include:
R.A.L. Jones - Soft Condensed Matter, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002
I.W. Hamley - Introduction to Soft Matter, Wiley, Chichester, 2000
P. Collings, M. Hird - Introduction to Liquid Crystals
L. S. Hirst, Fundamentals of Soft Matter Science, CRC Press 2013
A key part of the module will be the assignment, and this will require wider detailed research and preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Regular assessments

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Online AssessmentOnline Mid-Term Assessment30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Students will have to complete an online assessment at the end of the module. This will take place during the examinations period at the end of the semester and will be time bound. The assessment will not take 48 hours to complete, but students will have a 48 hour time period in which to complete it. Students must submit a reasonable attempt at all assessments for this module to pass this module.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 12/10/2020 15:48:24


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