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Department of Chemistry


Prof Jacob Israelachvili, FRS, FAA, NAE, NAS

University of California at Santa Barbara

Professor Israelachvili's research interests are in the general area of intermolecular and intersurface forces in complex fluid, biological and materials systems. He uses the Surface Forces Apparatus and other techniques for directly measuring the forces between surfaces in liquids and vapors, and for studying other interfacial and thin film phenomena at the molecular level. Specific projects currently include: non-equilibrium interactions (e.g., adhesion and friction), and developing new experimental techniques.

  • Surfaces & thin films
  • Adhesion & bioadhesion
  • Molecular & hydrodynamic forces

His group has pioneered studies on fundamental aspects of colloid and surface chemistry. Professor Israelachvili is currently studying the very short-range forces between surfaces in liquids and the relation between adhesion, friction, and the conformations of molecules trapped between surfaces.  Another area of activity is the development of new experimental techniques, especially for studying dynamic and time-dependent interactions. New techniques are also being developed for studying different materials and surfaces such as polymers, gels, silica, metals, metal oxides, ceramics, biological macromolecules (lipids, proteins, biopolymers, ligands and their receptors) and the interactions (adhesion, fusion and biolubrication) of model and real biomembranes and biosurfaces. The aim of these studies is to gain insight into the fundamental interactions in complex colloidal and biological systems that also have technological applications, for example, for creating biocompatible surfaces, developing new types of structured materials and soft biomaterials, and for medical diagnoses or treatments.

He has published (authored or co-authored) >300 papers, and is the author of a text-book entitled "Intermolecular and Surface Forces". Selected accolades include: ACS National Award in Colloid and Surface Chemistry, 2009; Schlumberger Visiting Professor - University of Oxford, UK, 2005; Elected to the US National Academy of Science in the area of Engineering Science, 2004; Elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in the area of Biological Physics, 2004; Probstein Lecturer in Fluid Dynamics and Microfluidics, MIT, 2004; Langmuir Lecturer: American Chemical Society, Chicago, 1993; FRS (Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London), 1988; Debye Lecturer (American Chemical Society): Cornell University, 1987.

General public lecture entitled  

  • The search for the "hydrophobic interaction potential" / "force-law" on Tuesday 21st June 2011 at 16.30 in W103

Followed by two specialised lectures:

  • The forces between supported bilayers in aqueous electrolyte (including polyelectrolyte) solutions on Wednesday 22nd June 2011 at 16:30 in CLC203
  • Deformations associated with the adhesion of bilayer vesicles in aqueous solutions on Thursday 23rd June 2011 at 16:30 in W103

Prof. Israelachvili's web site:

Durham Lecturers

  • 2018 
    Prof. Nicola Spaldin
  • 2017 
    Prof. Marsha I. Lester
  • 2016
    Sir J. Fraser Stoddart
  • 2015
    Prof. James M. Tour
  • 2014
    Prof. David J. Nesbitt 
  • 2013
    Prof. Dr. Peter H. Seeberger
  • 2012
    Prof. John F. Hartwig
  • 2011
    Prof. Jacob Israelachvili
  • 2010
    Prof. Daniel G. Nocera
  • 2009
    Prof. Gerard Meijer
  • 2008
    Prof. Christian Amatore
  • 2007
    Prof. Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao
  • 2006
    Prof. Bob Grubbs