Toggle Search

  1. Home
  2. ...
  3. Press releases
  4. Science of hair nets Unilever physicist Ig Nobel Award

Science of hair nets Unilever physicist Ig Nobel Award

Boston - 21 September 2012: A Unilever physicist has been awarded a prestigious Ig Nobel science award at a ceremony in Boston, USA, for his role in developing the first mathematical understanding of the shape of a ponytail.

Dr Patrick Warren, based at Unilever's Research & Development laboratories in Port Sunlight, UK, was the co-author of the award-winning research published in Physical Review Letters which provided quantitative analysis of how hairs are distributed in a ponytail.

Dr Warren shares the Ig Nobel Award for Physics with his co-authors Professor Raymond Goldstein from the University of Cambridge and Professor Robin Ball from the University of Warwick, and with Professor Joe Keller of Stanford University who published an earlier paper on the dynamics of ponytails.

Equation describes ponytail shape

The group's research centred around a new "Ponytail Shape Equation", which took account of the stiffness of the hairs, the effects of gravity and the presence of the random curliness or waviness that is ubiquitous in human hair to model how a ponytail is likely to shape. Together with a new quantity described in the article as the Rapunzel Number, the equation can be used to predict the shape of any ponytail.

The research also provides new understanding of how a bundle is swelled by the outward pressure which arises from collisions between the component hairs. This has important implications for understanding the structure of not just ponytails, but many materials made up of random fibres, such as wool and fur. It will also have resonance with the computer graphics and animation industry, where the representation of hair has been a challenging problem.

Developing new haircare products

Dr Warren said: "It's a great honour to have been recognised for this project. While the science might sound a little off-beat, it actually has important everyday consequences for Unilever which has a major haircare business. By improving our understanding of how individual hair fibres interact, this research could one day help us to develop new products which offer people even better volume control."

Dr Warren joined Unilever in 1992 having completed a PhD in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and a post-doctoral position at the University of Edinburgh. He has 71 publications in peer-reviewed journals, with a total of over 4000 citations. In 1997 he co-authored with a colleague Rob Groot what has become Unilever’s most highly cited publication, on the dissipative particle dynamics simulation method, which has received over 1000 citations.

-ENDS-

Notes for the editor

For more information, please contact Paul Matthews, Unilever Corporate Media Relations Manager on 0207 822 6605 or paul.matthews@unilever.com.

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with operations in over 100 countries and sales in 190. Consumers buy 170 billion Unilever packs around the world every year, and our products are used over two billion times a day. We have more than 171,000 employees, and generated annual sales of €46.5 billion in 2011.

Working to create a better future every day, we help people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others. Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most loved brands including thirteen €1 billion brands, and global leadership in most divisions in which we operate. The portfolio features iconic brands such as: Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Dove, Vaseline, Omo, Cif, Signal and Domestos.

Unilever’s ambition is to double the size of our business, whilst reducing our overall environmental impact (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal). We are also committed to doing what we can to improve health, nutrition and hygiene, with a target to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, as well as sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020. All of these goals are itemised in around 60 time-based commitments in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Unilever has led the Food Producers sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes for 13 consecutive years. We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. In 2011 Unilever led the Climate Counts Company Scorecard and was named #1 in the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders according to the latest survey findings from GlobeScan Inc. and SustainAbility Ltd.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com.

Unilever R&D involves over 6,000 professionals, six strategic centres for global R&D and 31 major product development centres. The strategic centres are located in Trumbull, US, Port Sunlight and Colworth in the UK, Vlaardingen in The Netherlands, Bangalore in India and Shanghai in China. In 2011, our investment in R&D was around €1bn.

Unilever PLC

Unilever House
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DY
United Kingdom

+44 (0) 207 822 5252
Press-Office.London@Unilever.com

Unilever NV

Weena 455
3013AL Rotterdam

www.unilever.nl

+31 (0) 10 217 4000
mediarelations.rotterdam@Unilever.com

Safe harbour statement

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘believes’ or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Group. They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance. Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements, including, among others, competitive pricing and activities, economic slowdown, industry consolidation, access to credit markets, recruitment levels, reputational risks, commodity prices, continued availability of raw materials, prioritisation of projects, consumption levels, costs, the ability to maintain and manage key customer relationships and supply chain sources, consumer demands, currency values, interest rates, the ability to integrate acquisitions and complete planned divestitures, the ability to complete planned restructuring activities, physical risks, environmental risks, the ability to manage regulatory, tax and legal matters and resolve pending matters within current estimates, legislative, fiscal and regulatory developments, political, economic and social conditions in the geographic markets where the Group operates and new or changed priorities of the Boards. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Group’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended 31 December 2010. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this document. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

Explore more on these topics:
Back to top