Professor Wettlaufer’s research is best described as a hybrid between condensed matter theory and experiment, materials physics, and applied mathematics with applications focusing on environmental, geophysical and technological problems. The scales range from atomic to meters, with implications on much larger scales. Of particular interest is the growth of ice from vapor, pure and binary melts, phase-antiphase boundary migration, and the role of surface melting in the migration of negative crystals, grain boundaries, and as an underlying cause of frost heave.
Specific areas include:
- Microscopic kinetics in crystal growth and melting.
- The physics of nucleation and the morphological stability of phase boundaries. The implications for phase behavior and dimensionality, with applications in materials processing, natural solidification and free boundary problems in general.
- Facetting transitions and near equilibrium crystal growth
- Static, dynamic and size effects in surface melting and wetting. In particular, frost heave dynamics in ice, granular materials and terrestrial alloys.
- Geometric and topological evolution equations for multiphase materials with application to geophysical systems.
- Dynamic effects in volatile dewetting; esp. when intermolecular interactions influence the phase behavior and couple to thin film hydrodynamics and the relevant PDE’s.
- Theoretical and experimental investigations of sea ice thermodynamics, and air-sea-ice interactions.