This is an Oxford Solid Mechanics and Mathematics Joint Seminar
We review progress made by our group on soft matter at interfaces and related physics from the nano- to macroscopic lengthscales. Specifically, to capture nanoscale properties very close to interfaces and to establish a link to the macroscale behaviour, we employ elements from the statistical mechanics of classical fluids, namely density-functional theory (DFT). We formulate a new and general dynamic DFT that carefully and systematically accounts for the fundamental elements of any classical fluid and soft matter system, a crucial step towards the accurate and predictive modelling of physically relevant systems. In a certain limit, our DDFT reduces to a non-local Navier-Stokes-like equation that we refer to as hydrodynamic DDFT: an inherently multiscale model, bridging the micro- to the macroscale, and retaining the relevant fundamental microscopic information (fluid temperature, fluid-fluid and wall-fluid interactions) at the macroscopic level.
Work analysing the moving contact line in both equilibrium and dynamics will be presented. This has been a longstanding problem for fluid dynamics with a major challenge being its multiscale nature, whereby nanoscale phenomena manifest themselves at the macroscale. A key property captured by DFT at equilibrium, is the fluid layering on the wall-fluid interface, amplified as the contact angle decreases. DFT also allows us to unravel novel phase transitions of fluids in confinement. In dynamics, hydrodynamic DDFT allows us to benchmark existing phenomenological models and reproduce some of their key ingredients. But its multiscale nature also allows us to unravel the underlying physics of moving contact lines, not possible with any of the previous approaches, and indeed show that the physics is much more intricate than the previous models suggest.
We will close with recent efforts on machine learning and DFT. In particular, the development of a novel data-driven physics-informed framework for the solution of the inverse problem of statistical mechanics: given experimental data on the collective motion of a classical many-body system, obtain the state functions, such as free-energy functionals.