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Waitukaitis Group

Soft and Complex Materials

The Waitukaitis Group is an experimental physics lab whose research focuses on complex phenomena occurring in solids and liquids. Under this general umbrella, their lab addresses a variety of topics ranging from the nanoscale to the macroscale and involving techniques ranging from atomic force microscopy to high-speed imaging.

An example at the smallest scale is the phenomenon of tribocharging – the exchange of electrical charge between objects during contact. Although well-known to anyone who has been shocked by a doorknob and described scientifically going back as far as ancient Greece, the underlying mechanism for tribocharging remains unresolved. They are particularly interested in same-material tribocharging, which counterintuitively occurs when identical materials are brought into contact. Recent results suggest that this phenomenon might be caused islands of water on the surfaces of materials. Using atomic force microscopy to characterize surfaces and several cutting-edge techniques to measure charge exchange, a major goal is to validate or nullify this hypothesis.

At larger scales, they are interested in the non-Newtonian dynamics that arise when colloidal-sized solid particles are suspended in liquids. Perhaps the most well-known example is a dense mixture of cornstarch particles in water, which behaves liquid-like when perturbed gently but solid-like when vigorously agitated. Previous work has centered on passive non-Newtonian suspensions such as this, but moving forward their lab will focus on colloidal suspensions filled with particles whose motion can be controlled by environmental stimuli. Their long-term goal in this direction is to be able to control the flow of fluids using the motion of active constituents.


Current Projects

Mesoscale charging Tribocharging | Elastic Leidenfrost | Active Fluids


Sobarzo Ponce JCA, Waitukaitis SR. 2024. Multiple charge carrier species as a possible cause for triboelectric cycles. Physical Review E. 109(3), L032108. View

Binysh J, Chakraborty I, Chubynsky MV, Diaz Melian VL, Waitukaitis SR, Sprittles JE, Souslov A. 2023. Modeling Leidenfrost levitation of soft elastic solids. Physical Review Letters. 131(16), 168201. View

Binysh J, Chakraborty I, Chubynsky M, Diaz Melian VL, Waitukaitis SR, Sprittles J, Souslov A. 2023. SouslovLab/PRL2023-ModellingLeidenfrostLevitationofSoftElasticSolids: v1.0.1, Zenodo, 10.5281/ZENODO.8329143. View

Grosjean GM, Waitukaitis SR. 2023. Asymmetries in triboelectric charging: Generalizing mosaic models to different-material samples and sliding contacts. Physical Review Materials. 7(6), 065601. View

Stöllner A, Lenton IC, Muller CJ, Waitukaitis SR. 2023. Measuring spontaneous charging of single aerosol particles. EGU General Assembly 2023. EGU General Assembly, 6166. View

View All Publications

ReX-Link: Scott Waitukaitis


Since 2019 Assistant Professor, Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA)
2016-2018 Veni Fellow and postdoctoral scholar at AMOLF, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
2013-2016 Postdoctoral Scholar at Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands
2007-2013 Ph.D. in physics at the University of Chicago, Chicago USA

Selected Distinctions

2021 Member of the Young Academy (Austria)
2020 ERC Starting Grant
2018 NNV Fysica Young Speakers Award
2018 Block Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher
2016-present Veni Research Grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
2014 The Springer Thesis Award, Springer Publishing
2012 The Bruce Winstein Prize for Instrumentation
2010-2013 Robert A. Millikan Fellowship

Additional Information

Download CV
Waitukaitis Group website
Physics & Beyond at ISTA

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