matthew_putman's picture
Applied Physicist; Chairman of the Board, Pioneer Works; CEO, Nanotronics

The world is governed by scientific principles that are fairly well taught and understood. A concept that resonates throughout physical science is rheology, and yet there are so few rheologists in academia that an international symposium fills only a small conference room. Rheo, coming from the Greek to flow, is primarily the study of how non-Newtonian matter flows. In practice, most rheologists look at how nanoparticles behave in complex compounds, often filled with graphene, silica, or carbon nanotubes. Rheology was key to the creation of tires and other polymer systems, but as new technologies incorporate flexible and stretchable devices for electronics, medical implants, regenerative and haptic garments for virtual reality experiences, rheologists will need to be as common as chemists.

The primary reason for the relative obscurity of such an important topic is the hidden complexity involved. The number of connections in the human brain has been discussed by neuroscientists and often invites a sense of awe and inspiration to reduce and unify. Despite some well-known and simple equations, a complex nano-filled elastomer is also nearly impossible to model. Before it is possible to scale the dreams of today, experiments and theoretical models will need to converge in ways that they do not now. Through rheology, van der waal forces, semiconductivity, superconductivity, Quantum tunneling, and other such properties of composite materials can be harnessed and exploited, rather than hinder. Rheology is the old, newly relevant transdisciplinary science.