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Trinity College Dublin

Personal Information
Name Weaire, Denis Lawrence
Main Department Physics
College Title Fellow Emeritus
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Denis Lawrence WEAIRE recently retired as Erasmus Smith Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy in the School of Physics of Trinity College Dublin. He is a an honorary Doctor of the Technical University of Lisbon, Member (and former VP) of the Royal Irish Academy, Member (and current VP) of the Academia Europaea, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He served on the interim Board of Science Foundation Ireland and as a member of the Scientific Council of the (EC)JRC, Editor-in-Chief of J Phys (Condensed Matter), a founder member and first Secretary/Treasurer of the European Association of Deans of Science, Chairman of the EU TMR Physics Networks Panel, and President of the European Physical Society. In TCD he has served as Dean of Science, and he has conducted numerous evaluations and reviews for the EU and governmental agencies. In 2002 he was awarded the Cecil Powell Memorial Medal of the EPS. His work has also been recognized by prizes from Shell Amsterdam, the Japanese Society for Science on Form, and special public lectures. In February 2005 he is to be conferred with the Cunningham Medal, the most distinguished award of the Royal Irish Academy. In 2008 he received the Hollingweck Medal and prize, jointly awarded by the Intitute of Physics and the French Physical Society. He was a director and co-founder of a successful spin-off technology company (Magnetic Solutions Ltd) engaged since 1994 in the manufacture and design of magnetic instrumentation and of magnetic annealing systems for the semiconductor industry. He has acted as an advisor on science policy and evaluation to science agencies in France, Portugal, Brazil and Australia and is currently reviewing plans for major research centres in Australia. Research interests have included computational physics, electronic structure, amorphous materials, magnetic devices, soft condensed matter (particularly foams), microfluidics, and the history of science. He has delivered many keynote and plenary lectures on these topics to leading international conferences in a variety of disciplines. In addition he has strong interests in history of science (and has been chairman of the relevant boards of EPS and IOP) and arts-science interactions. He has assisted in the design of the Science Centre at Birr, organised the Quatercentenary Science Exhibition of TCD and other lesser exhibitions, and produced the play "Calculus". He is Chairman of the Library Committee of the Royal Society. He is the author over three hundred and fifty publications and several books, most notably Physics of Foams (OUPP) and Pursuit of Perfect Packing (Taylor anf Francis,Second Edition 2008). His most notable research achievement was the 1994 paper, which overthrew a century-old conjecture of Lord Kelvin, regarding the structure of foam. The “Weaire-Phelan” structure, announced at that time, is to be the basis for the construction of one of the main buildings of the Beijing Olympics- the “Water Cube”. He has an extensive record of research grants in the USA, UK, the EU and Ireland.
Details Date
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter 1994-1997
Vice-President, European Physical Society 1999-2000
Vice-President of the Academia Europaea 2003-Present
Birr Scientific and Heritage Trust(Charitable Foundation) 1992-1998
Magnetic Solutions Ltd (Manufacturing Company) 1994-Present
Membership of Professional Institutions, Associations, Societies
Details Date From Date To
Elected Member of the Academia Europaea 1998
President, European Physical Society 1997 1999
Member of the Royal Irish Academy 1987
Belfast Royal Academy 1954 1961
Awards and Honours
Award Date
Cunningham Medal of the Royal Irish Academy 2005
Elected Fellow of the Royal Society 1998
Fellow of Trinity College Dublin 1987
Research Fellow, Harvard University 1969 - 1970
Fellow of Clare College 1967 - 1969
More Awards and Honours>>>
Description of Research Interests
My research has ranged over a number of areas in solid state physics, materials science and computational physics. Early work in Cambridge was in pseudopotential theory applied to metals: it resulted in an influential review article, but preceded the major expansion of that subject, in terms of local density approximations. At Harvard I was attracted to two themes in disordered materials: amorphous metals and amorphous silicon. The latter was to absorb my interest for many years, in the proof of theorems and computations that had to do with electronic and vibrational properties. The foremost of these rigorously established the existence of a band gap for an idealised (“Weaire-Thorpe”) Hamiltonian, regardless of disorder, which was an important step in understanding a-Si. I also became interested in the process of building random network models for this material. Much later, I was to develop with others the WWW model, based on an algorithm of my own conception. This has been greatly used and highly cited ever since. Quite early in my career I recognised that foam structures, particularly in two dimensions, presented an opportunity for this kind of research, in tune with the growing interest in complex, disordered materials. This grew into a research programme that has by now excluded all else, and is partly encapsulated in the book Physics of Foams, now a standard reference. In 1984 we organised in Ireland the first of a series of conferences on the physics of foams, of which the latest was held in France this year, Attracting 200 participants. Starting at Yale, then at UCD and TCD, this research has produced many key results such as: the Aboav-Weaire Law for statistical correlations in cellular structures the first realistic computer simulation of a dry 2d foam the first realistic simulation for a wet foam the first account of the variation of elastic properties of a 2d foam with liquid fraction, based on simulation the discovery of many ordered cylindrical foam structures the discovery and theoretical analysis of a solitary wave in foam drainage the discovery of convective instability in foam drainage recently, the discovery of a remarkable new form of meandering rivulet instability However the most prominent outcome of our work at TCD was the Weaire-Phelan structure, the minimum energy structure (as far as we know) of a foam of equal-sized bubbles in three dimensions. This overthrew a century-old conjecture of Lord Kelvin (as recounted in The Kelvin Problem), and it attracted worldwide recognition. One of the main buildings for the Beijing Olympics is being constructed in the form of a framework explicitly based on this structure – the Water Cube. The mathematical questions surrounding foam structures are intriguing. I was invited to be the primary coordinator of a summer programme at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge in 2002, to which leading mathematicians came to discuss these topics intensively for one month. However this is not really characteristic of our general style of research, which combines theory, computation and simple experiments in the pursuit of many different physical properties and even their applications. Today most of these topics belong in some sense to fluid dynamics. This research line is continuing unabated into retirement, with some addition of themes from the history of science, which build upon longstanding interests.
Publications and Other Research Outputs
Peer Reviewed
SJ Cox , D. Wearie , G. Mishuris, The viscous froth model: steady states and the high-velocity limit, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 465, (2108 ), 2009, p2391 - 2405
Non Peer Reviewed
D. Weaire, T. Aste, The Pursuit of Perfect Packing, Bristol, IOPP, 2000
D. Weaire and S. Hutzler, The Physics of Foams, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999
Notes: [ also published in Japanese, 2004.]
D. Weaire, The Kelvin Problem, London, Taylor and Francis, 1997
D. Weaire, JF McGilp, Ch Patterson, Epioptics, Berlin, Springer-Verlag, 1995
More Publications and Other Research Outputs >>>

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Last Updated:01-OCT-2014