The Department of Physics and Astronomy conducts research in various domains in modern physics in order to understand the fundamentals of physics. The department contains several research units comprising activities in physical acoustics and thermal physics, biophysics, nuclear and radiation physics, semiconductor physics, solid state physics, theoretical physics and astronomy. In addition to the leading international research activities, mostly financed by national and international institutions for scientific research, a diverse range of assignments related to education and services are accomplished. The department belongs to the Science, Engineering and Technology Group, Faculty of Science, and currently counts about 350 staff members.
The research groups within the Soft Matter and Biophysics unit study systems ranging from pure soft matter systems such as small molecular glasses to pure biological systems such as brain cells. In the field of soft matter physics, the research activities of our laboratory aim at the understanding of order-to-disorder- and structural phase transitions. For small molecular and polymeric systems we focus on relaxation behaviour in confinement. For colloidal systems, ranging from wormlike micelles to biological building blocks like F-actin, research is centred around the effect of shear flow. For biological materials such as rod-like viruses, DNA and self-assembled protein nanostructures we study the ordering behaviour as well as interactions with inorganic materials. Furthermore, we analyse the intrinsic links between the structure, structural changes, and the functionality of biological macromolecules. At the level of cells and tissues, we are especially interested in their interaction with light and their electronic behaviour and activity. Substantial efforts are continuously made to improve instrumentation in order to obtain real-time information on the structural-, thermal-, and elastic behaviour of biological- and soft materials with high spatial resolution and at time scales down to picoseconds. Examples of our advanced experimental infrastructure include high-resolution calorimetry, photothermal and photoacoustic techniques, scanning and full field vibrometry, acoustic absorption measurements, porous material characterization and a setup for virtual acoustics by real time convolution. The laboratory also has a long tradition in the wide field of acoustics, ranging from physical acoustics over room acoustics, psychoacoustics to building acoustics (in collaboration with the Structural Mechanics Section of the Department of Civil Engineering) and environmental acoustics. The research in acoustics makes use of dedicated infrastructure and acoustic rooms, as well as and instrumentation.