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Erik Luijten

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Professor of Engineering Sciences and Applied Mathematics; Professor, Physics & Astronomy (by courtesy)

Ph.D. in Physics, Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands, 1997; M.Sc. in Physics, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands

Research Interests

My research focuses on the thermodynamic properties and phase behavior of materials, with a strong emphasis on complex fluids, such as polymeric systems and electrolytes. These systems are studied predominantly by means of computer simulations, through which we aim to realize our primary goals: First, to understand experimentally observed phenomena from the underlying microscopic features of a system, and second, to test the predictive value of analytic theories describing these systems. The insight thus gained allows the prediction of yet unknown properties of materials and the design of new materials.

Current research projects concern the properties of electrolyte solutions near their critical point and the phase behavior of ternary polymer solutions as a function of the degree of polymerization. In addition, concrete plans exist for the study of other, closely related, polymer mixtures. I anticipate that in the immediate future the center of my research will shift to various charged systems, including those involving colloids and polyelectrolytes. Not only do these systems exhibit fascinating properties stimulating our scientific curiosity, but they are also strongly gaining importance in nanotechnological and bioengineering applications.

Despite the steady increase in available computer power, many of these problems hover on the verge of what is feasible. Therefore, in order to obtain scientifically worthwhile results within an acceptable time frame, it is essential to employ state-of-the-art techniques. We take an active interest in the development of new methodologies, both simulation techniques and advanced approaches to data analysis. One breakthrough has been the development of a Monte Carlo algorithm for long-range ferromagnetic and dipolar spin models, which has sped up simulations of these systems by many orders of magnitude and which is now the method of choice in studies of this class of systems.

Past highlights of my research lie in the area of theoretical statistical physics, primarily in the field of critical phenomena. These include:

  • The demonstration that one of the basic models for surface roughening incorporates an inverse roughening transition, where a crystal surface is smooth at low temperatures and becomes rough at higher temperatures.
  • The first explicit numerical evidence that simple one-dimensional systems can exhibit the celebrated Kosterlitz-Thouless transition, which describes phenomena such as surface melting, the lambda transition in superfluid films, and the normal-superconductor transition in two-dimensional superconductors.
  • The first numerical calculation of crossover scaling functions describing the crossover between different universality classes in the vicinity of a continuous phase transition. In addition to the verification of theoretical predictions, these functions have been used for the description of experimental data for helium and xenon.
  • The exact solution of a class of systems with long-range (power-law) interactions, proving that these nonextensive models can be described by Boltzmann-Gibbs statistics.
  • Contributions to the elucidation of finite-size scaling theory in the absence of hyperscaling and resolution of various controversies regarding the numerical verification of predictions made by the renormalization-group theory in this regime.


  • Racheff Assistant Professor (2001-2003)
  • Collins Scholar, Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education (2001-2002)
  • Helmholtz Award, International Association for the Properties of Water and Steam (2003)
  • NSF CAREER Award (2004)
  • Xerox Award for Faculty Research (2006)
  • Fellow, American Physical Society (2013) 

Selected Publications

Barros, K.; Sinkovits, D.; Luijten, E., “Efficient and accurate simulation of dynamic dielectric objects”, Journal of Chemical Physics, (2014)

Granick, Steve; Jiang, Shan; Yan, Jing; Whitmer, Jonathan K.; Anthony, Stephen M., “Orientationally glassy crystals of Janus spheres”, Physical Review Letters, (2014)

K. Zhao, B.S. Tseng, B. Beckerman, F. Jin, M. L. Gibiansky, J.J. Harrison, E. Luijten, M.R. Parsek and G.C.L. Wong, "Psl trails guide exploration and microcolony formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms," Nature 497, 388–391 (2013).

X. Jiang, W. Qu, D. Pan, Y. Ren, J.M. Williford, H. Cui, E. Luijten and H.Q. Mao, "Plasmid-templated shape control of condensed DNA–block copolymer nanoparticles," Adv. Mater. 25, 227–232 (2013).

J. Yan, M. Bloom, S.C. Bae, E. Luijten and S. Granick, "Linking synchronization to self–assembly using magnetic Janus colloids," Nature 491, 578–581 (2012).

D.W. Sinkovits, S. A. Barr and E. Luijten, "Rejection-free Monte Carlo scheme for anisotropic particles," J. Chem. Phys. 136, 144111 (2012).

D.W. Sinkovits and E. Luijten, "Nanoparticle-controlled aggregation of colloidal tetrapods," Nano Lett. 12, 1743–1748 (2012).

J.K. Whitmer, E Luijten, “Sedimentation of aggregating colloids,” Journal of Chemical Physics, (2011).

J.K. Whitmer, E Luijten, “Influence of Hydrodynamics on Cluster Formation in Colloid-Polymer Mixtures," J. Phys. Chem. B 115, 7294–7300 (2011).

Q. Chen, E. Diesel, J. K. Whitmer, S.C. Bae, E. Luijten, S. Granick, “Triblock Colloids for Directed Self-Assembly," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 133, 7725–7727 (2011).

Q. Chen, J.K. Whitmer, S. Jiang, S.C. Bae, E. Luijten, S. Granick, “Supracolloidal Reaction Kinetics of Janus Spheres," Science 331, 199–202 (2011).

S.A. Barr, E. Luijten, “Structural properties of materials created through freeze casting," Acta Materialia 58, 709–715 (2010).

S. Jiang, Q. Chen, M. Tripathy, E. Luijten, K.S. Schweizer, S. Granick, “Janus Particle Synthesis and Assembly," Adv. Mater. 22, 1060–1071 (2010).

J.K. Whitmer, E. Luijten, “Fluid-solid boundary conditions for multiparticle collision dynamics," J. Phys.: Condens. Matter. 22, 104106 (2010).

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