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Research

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Dr Mark Miller, MA, PhD

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42037

(email at m.a.miller@durham.ac.uk)

Biography

Mark Miller read Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and continued there to study for a Ph.D. on the energy landscapes and dynamics of model clusters under the supervision of Prof. David Wales. Mark then undertook postdoctoral work in the group of Prof. William Reinhardt at the University of Washington in Seattle, and in the group of Prof. Daan Frenkel at the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) in Amsterdam. Mark returned to Cambridge initially as a Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College, then as an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow and finally as a University Lecturer. In 2013 he moved to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Durham.

Research Interests

My research employs specially designed simulation techniques to investigate the structure, dynamics and thermodynamics of molecular and colloidal systems. A key element in my approach is the use of coarse-grained models that provide insight into a problem by being as simple as possible while retaining the essential chemistry and physics. Even with simplified models, it is often highly challenging to bridge the gap between the length- and time-scales associated with individual particles and those associated with collective properties. The development of simulation methodology is essential to make progress in such cases.

Self Assembly

Nature provides many examples of molecular building blocks that efficiently self-organise into well-defined structures, such as the cooperative folding and assembly of proteins into highly specific complexes, and the assembly of the protein shells (capsids) that encapsulate the genetic material of viruses. Such processes are driven by the shapes and interactions of the individual components of the final structure, and by the conditions in which they encounter one another. We are using modelling and simulation techniques to investigate the rules for, and limits of self assembly with the goal of learning how to design particles that will self-assemble into target structures with minimal intervention.

Clusters

Small aggregates of molecules or colloidal particles often have properties that differ from the bulk (very large samples). As well as being important in their own right, such finite systems can also be a useful forum for investigating how the interactions between particles lead to their collective behaviour. Two examples of work on clusters that we are currently considering are the formation of knotted structures formed in clusters of dipolar particles, and the stability of charged clusters relevant to electrospray processes.

Network-forming fluids

The characteristics of disordered phases can often be described by the nature of the aggregates that they contain. Aggregates may be compact or diffuse and may grow large enough to percolate (i.e., to span the entire system). For example, gels are low-density networks of particles that have become connected, possibly transiently, resulting in slower dynamic relaxation of the structure. In systems of electrically conducting particles there is a sharp increase in the conductivity of the entire sample under conditions where the particles connect into a percolating network.

Selected Publications

  • Energy landscapes, structural topologies and rearrangement mechanisms in clusters of dipolar particles; J. D. Farrell, C. Lines, J. J. Shepherd, D. Chakrabarti, M. A. Miller and D. J. Wales; Soft Matter 9 5407 (2013)
  • Structure and stability of charged clusters; M. A. Miller, D. A. Bonhommeau, C. J. Heard, Y. Shin, R. Spezia and M.-P. Gaigeot; J. Phys. Cond. Matt. 24 284130 (2012)
  • Crystallization of deformable spherical colloids, V. M. O. Batista and M. A. Miller, Phys. Rev. Lett. 105 088305 (2010)
  • Dynamical arrest in low density dipolar colloidal gels; M. A. Miller, R. Blaak, C. N. Lumb and J.-P. Hansen; J. Chem. Phys. 130 114507 (2009)
  • Depletion-induced percolation in networks of nanorods, T. Schilling, S. Jungblut and M. A. Miller; Phys. Rev. Lett. 98 108303 (2007)

Research Groups

Department of Chemistry

Research Interests

  • Soft condensed matter
  • Atomic and molecular clusters
  • Self assembly
  • Monte Carlo simulation

Publications

Journal papers: academic