Organisational unit: Research Sub-grouping
Bristol's mathematics department has a long and illustrious history in fluid dynamics, starting in the 1940s when the group was established by Prof. Leslie Howarth, famous for research into the mathematics of supersonic flight such as boundary layer and compressible flow equations, as well as the theory of turbulence.
Building on that foundation, the fluids group boasts several full-time faculty members, plus several post-doctoral fellows, researching the nonlinear dynamical equations behind diverse phenomena such as drops, vortices, transition to turbulence, particle-laden and granular flows.
On microscopic scales, complex materials such as shape memory alloys and liquid crystals reveal a rich and fascinating small-scale structure which eludes the reach of classical mathematical tools. So researchers at Bristol deploy new tools, drawn from areas such as nonlinear analysis, the calculus of variations, topology and algebraic geometry, to derive and study new models which can capture this fine-scale behaviour.
Research includes analysing energy-minimising configurations of shape-memory materials, including the fundamental but poorly understood mathematical property of quasiconvexity. The group is also investigating small-scale liquid crystal structures that form in complex geometries. This work, in partnership with scientists at Hewlett Packard, is directed towards designing bi-stable liquid crystal displays (LCDs), in which power is required only to change display states but not to maintain them.