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Updated: February 15, 2010 15:05 IST

Promising future in colloids

Special Correspondent
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Professor Mike Cates at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
Professor Mike Cates at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Imagine a smart paint that will have antibiotics and bacteria in it to fight against infections or to create a particular effect possible only with live substances. It might not be ready in the immediate future but the work of Mike Cates, chair of natural philosophy, University of Edinburgh, could lead to such applications and more.

Here in the city to present his work on colloids — chemical mixtures with one substance evenly dispersed in another — as part of the IISc.-U.K. Lecture series, Prof. Cates delivered a lecture at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (MATSCIENCE) on the theory and the applications of research on “soft matter” which include colloids, liquid crystals and polymers.

“Shampoos have been around for a long time and liquid crystal displays are immensely popular but the theory behind their working is complicated and has been explained satisfactorily only after popular use made the substances,” the Dirac Medal winner says. Unlike in other fields, theory and experimentation went hand in hand in his field, he explains.

His work with IISc. and researchers at MATSCIENCE will look to extend the applications of the interesting field to include colloids with live material like bacteria.

“Until now, colloids have been restricted to the use of chemicals. But when we add live bacteria, and if we can control their behaviour, the possibilities are endless,” he says. But the work is only in its initial stages and will take time to mature, he adds.

Prof. Cates says that research in India is well-placed to play a significant role in global science and mentions his fruitful collaborations with Indian scientists. To maintain a balance and for successful developments in technology, he says that funding for science and technology should be proportionate.

The IISc.-U.K. lecture series, initiated to commemorate IISc's centenary year, will bring experts from the U.K. to lecture in various Indian institutions to showcase cutting-edge research undertaken by U.K. academics.



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