Physical phenomena far from equilibrium still represent one of the last unsolved mysteries in classical physics. We are interested in discovering the physics of classical many body systems out of equilibrium. For example, if a liquid is cooled below freezing point, it normally freezes into a crystalline solid. However, this does not occur immediately, but can take an extremely long time, depending on experimental conditions. The physical properties of the liquid out of equilibrium - the supercooled melt - are still not understood. The same applies to the birth of the crystalline phase. Many experiments show a quasi-stationarity of observables on the global scale, which gives the impression that the supercooled liquid is "stuck" in a time-isotropic metastable state. However, in non-equilibrium there is a well defined direction of time, pointing to the equilibrium state. Special non-stationary processes lead the system to this state - in our example the crystal. We are interested in identifying and understanding these non-stationary processes experimentally. To this end, we study simple colloidal model systems with highly sophisticated experiments using microscopy, scattering, and spectroscopy to obtain complementary information in direct and reciprocal space.
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