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Dr P. Schall (1971) has been appointed professor of Soft Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Amsterdam's (UvA) Faculty of Science.

Prof Peter Schall, professor Soft Condensed Matter Physics
Photo: Dirk Gillissen

Peter Schall researches the statistical physics of new nanomaterials and soft matter. A recent breakthrough in the synthesis of nanoparticles makes it possible to assemble complex structures at the nanoscale. These structures form the basis for new functional materials of the future. One of the big challenges is to precisely bind nanoparticles into specific structures at the nanoscale, and to understand and design the physical properties of these structures. Of particular interest are opto-electronic properties for the development of new photovoltaic materials for efficient solar cells.

Besides nanoparticles, Schall researches soft, complex materials such as suspensions and emulsions, with particles at the micrometre scale. Because of their size, the individual particles can be directly observed, and they visualise the physical processes of smaller nanoparticles and even atomic systems. This provides insights into processes such as the assembly of structures, and the solidification and flow of complex materials and mechanisms important to the stability of matter in general. Such insights are applicable to geology, food products and cosmetics, and biological materials. Schall also researches the formation of nanostructures in space. Experiments at the International Space Station will provide generic insights into the formation and behaviour of structures at zero gravity.

Schall has worked at the UvA’s Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute for Experimental Physics since 2005, and as associate professor since 2010. He was previously a postdoc at Harvard University. Schall is a space research project leader at NASA (Advanced Colloid Experiments in Microgravity) and ESA (SODI-Colloid). He has been awarded a number of research grants including a Vidi and Vici grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). He is editor of the European Physical Journal (EPJ) and of the book series Soft Condensed Matter and Biological Physics (Springer).