Crumpling of Sheets, Shells and Cylinders

Talk given by David R. Nelson, Lyman Laboratory, Harvard University.

Lunch served from 12. Talk from 12:15.


The physics of thin plates and shells has a rich history, culminating with the Foeppl-von Karman equations in 1904, a precursor of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

However, new physics arises when these objects wrinkle and crumple due to thermal energy, like a discarded piece of writing paper.

We discuss recent experiments and computer simulations that illuminate the wrinkling and crumpling process in atomically thin materials such as graphene, where it may be possible to study the quantum mechanics of two dimensional Dirac electrons in a fluctuating curved space.

Brief Biography of David R. Nelson

David R. Nelson is Arthur K. Solomon Professor of Biophysics and Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. in 1975 from Cornell University.  

With his colleague, Bertrand I. Halperin, he is responsible for a theory of two-dimensional melting that predicts a fourth "hexatic" phase of matter, interposed between the usual solid and liquid phases.  

Nelson's research also includes a theory of the structure and statistical mechanics of metallic glasses and investigations of "tethered surfaces”, which are two-dimensional generalizations of linear polymer chains. 

In addition, Nelson has studied flux line entanglement and pinning in high temperature superconductors, where at high magnetic fields, thermal fluctuations cause regular arrays of vortex lines to melt into a tangled spaghetti state. 

David Nelson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.  He has been an A. P. Sloan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow and a Junior and Senior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows.  Nelson is the recipient of a five-year MacArthur  Prize Fellowship, the National Academy of Sciences Prize for Initiatives in Research, the Harvard Ledlie Prize, the Bardeen Prize (for research on superconductivity) and the Buckley Prize (for research on soft condensed matter physics).   


Published Oct. 5, 2018 3:04 PM - Last modified Oct. 5, 2018 3:05 PM