Mary Coe Awarded IoP CPG Thesis Prize

Second prize for this year’s 2022 IoP CPG Thesis Prize has been awarded to Mary Coe, University of Bristol. Mary’s thesis, titled Hydrophobicity Across Length Scales: The Role of Surface Criticality, employed Monte Carlo simulations and density function theory to elucidating the behaviour of water near a hydrophobic solid surface. Despite its ubiquity in everyday life and in many scientific disciplines, the underlying physical mechanism relating hydrophobicity on the microscopic scale to hydrophobicity on macroscopic length scales has remained a difficult problem. Mary studied density depletion and enhanced fluctuations in the vicinity of the drying critical point for several fluid-fluid and fluid-solid interactions near curved surfaces, and so extended her work beyond hydrophobicity to consider more generally solvophobicity. Mary’s results provide strong numerical evidence that the mechanism underlying both hydrophobicity and solvophobicity across microscopic and macroscopic length scales is a drying surface critical point.

Cross-sections through the centre of simulation boxes containing particle of radius Rs, given in terms of the diameter of a monatomic water particle σmw, show the formation of fluctuating ‘nanobubbles’ across the solute surface as the solute size increases. There is debate within experimental work about the formation of the vapour layer – Mary’s simulations favoured the nano bubble view.

We look forward to reading more about Mary’s work in the next IoP Computational Physics Group Newsletter. In the meantime, Mary’s thesis is available online.

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