Condensed matter physics

Condensed matter physics is the branch of modern physics that studies the microscopic physical properties of matter. The virtually infinite rearrangements of matter, combined with micro/nano-structuring, continue to pose new research challenges for the development of novel compounds and materials characterized by controllable properties of both fundamental and applied interest.

Condensed matter physics is concerned with extended systems (solids, liquids, “soft matter”) at thermodynamic equilibrium, but also with nano-aggregates and out-of-equilibrium phenomena, such as friction and dissipation at the atomic level; interaction of radiation with matter, including various spectroscopies, as well as the development of theoretical models and experimental methods. It is by far the broadest field of research in contemporary physics presenting numerous overlaps with chemistry, materials science, electronics, nanotechnology, and engineering.

The Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics section includes two main research strands: Nano- and micrometer-scale transport properties – While the need for increasingly miniaturized devices drives us to study charge transport at the nanoscale, quantum effects must be taken into account. In the nano-world, electric current propagates in a radically different way than in macroscopic devices. Electron spin, together with quantum coherence also pave the way for new paradigms for computation and quantum computers, which represent the ultimate goal of miniaturization techniques. Our group studies these issues by exploiting a set of analytical and numerical techniques.

Structural and thermodynamic properties of nanoparticles – Materials, in the form of nanometer-sized particles, have properties that are strikingly different from those they have on a macroscopic scale. The structure of metallic nanoparticles, for example, can be very different from that of the metallic materials we know. This has important application implications, for example to the development of catalyst materials. Our group uses computational tools to study the geometric structure of nanoparticles, and with classical and quantum models we make predictions about their stability and behavior at varying temperatures.

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