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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS5016M Soft Matter Physics: Liquid Crystals

15 creditsClass Size: 90

Module manager: Dr Mamatha Nagaraj

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

Year running 2023/24

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
Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and application of:
1. general concepts of soft matter physics and liquid crystals.
2. the choice of methods for characterising soft materials.
3. solving problems, particularly the ability to relate material properties to device design.
4. Application of physical methods to new problems in liquid crystal physics and devices, and soft matter systems more widely.
5. research methodologies applied to liquid crystal systems
6. 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

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

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 30 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Students will have to complete an in-person exam 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. Students must submit a serious attempt at all assessments for this module, in order to pass the module overall.

Reading list

There is no reading list for this module

Last updated: 25/09/2023


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