The master of analogies

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes has shown how simple analogies can be used to understand complex systems such as liquid crystals and polymers. These materials are at the same time solid and liquid-like. On the molecular level they are both ordered and disordered. He explained the properties of the materials from what is known about order-disorder phase transitions in simpler systems.
    De Gennes discovered that although phase transitions in different materials give rise to widely different phenomena, and are governed by different parameters, such as temperature, concentration, magnetic or electric field, they can be described in a very general way. Whether the structure is a liquid crystal, ferromagnet, superconductor or polymer, universal features can be identified and be explained by simple scaling laws.


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