When an external load is imposed on a solid - be it crystalline or amorphous - it initially responds elastically, and the deformation is simply proportional to the load. However, at some point, this simple relation between the load and deformation breaks down, and the solid begins to flow plastically when the load approaches the so-called yield stress, a phenomenon known as the yielding transition. Understanding this transition from a static, jammed state to a dynamic, flowing state is of utmost importance for endless industrial and technological applications: it is key to understanding how materials break.
The yielding transition is believed to belong to a class of non-equilibrium critical phenomena known as self-organized criticality -- a scenario in which systems dwell between the states of stability and instability. Many aspects of the yielding transition have yet to be explained. In my research I seek answers to questions such as: what are the fundamental mechanisms by which a solid can flow plastically? is there a universal principle by which the carriers of plasticity can be identified and their density quantified? what is the useful theoretical framework to understand the yielding transition and its dependence on external parameters (such as temperature, loading rate, etc.)? How does the phenomenon of yielding depend on the characteristics of the material under study? what are the relevant order parameters that will enter future theories of plasticity and yielding?