From the left, first column: (upper figure) Cut plane view of electron bonding charge densities of an iron-phosphorus compound obtained from ab initio calculations, and (lower figure) scanning electron micrograph of fracture surface of ductile amorphous steel showing network of plastic deformation zones. Second column: Pole figures of a (002) MnAl thin film deposited on a MgO substrate. Third column: (upper) The magnetic strip domain structure of MnAl thin film revealed by Magnetic Force Microscopy image. (Lower) The detailed magnetic parallel strip domains showing the width is ~10 nm. Fourth column: Color contour map of the strongly anisotropic spin resonance neutron scattering intensity in the momentum space obtained from superconducting FeTe0.5Se0.5 whose crystal structure is shown in the inset.
Condensed matter physics seeks to understand the striking new physical properties that may emerge when very large numbers of atoms or molecules organize into solids or liquids. Research in this area has led to fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of metals, semiconductors and superconductors, as well as to the inventions of the transistor, diode laser, and integrated circuit. Condensed matter physics thus comprises the technological underpinning for the entire modern computer and communications industry. For these reasons, worldwide, this branch of physics commands the largest number of researchers, who work in academic institutions, major industrial and government laboratories, and small entrepreneurial enterprises. The problems addressed by condensed matter physicists are often interdiscplinary in nature, affecting a number of other scientific fields including chemistry, biology, electrical engineering, and materials science. The University of Virginia maintains a diverse and vigorous research program in both experimental and theoretical condensed matter physics.
The experimental condensed matter research groups at UVa explore the structural, optical, electronic, and magnetic properties of different types of solids ranging from amorphous to crystalline systems with novel properties. Activities include the synthesis and characterization of 2D and 3D quantum materials, topological insulators and semimetals, cuprate high-temperature superconductors, colossal magneto resistive manganites, spintronic magnetic thin films, photovoltaic perovskites, and complex composition alloys, measurements of electronic and magnetic properties using various advanced analytical tools including angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, characterization of static and dynamic lattice effects using the pair density function analysis. The condensed matter community at UVa has access to a variety of cryogenic facilities capable of scanning temperatures from as low as 15 mK to room temperature, several physical property measurement systems, different scanning-probe instruments such as scanning tunneling, atomic force, and magnetic force microscopes, various thin-film deposition systems, and a range of microwave and millimeter-wave analytic instruments. In addition, many research projects work closely with Electrical Engineering and Materials Science Departments, using facilities such as the Microfabrication Laboratories and Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility, as well as national labs where high magnetic field sources are available. The group also performs research at national and international neutron and x-ray facilities and carries out high precision measurements on the atomistic properties of materials, particularly under high pressure.
Theoretical condensed matter physicists at UVa try to arrive at a quantitative description of many unusual properties observed in novel materials and fluids. Such research includes an investigation into what makes the new generation of high-temperature superconductors work as they do, solving model problems like quantum spin chains which are believed to contain the features of newly synthesized low-dimensional metals and magnets. Studies of the structure of magnetic vortices in superconductors and the interactions that bind atoms and molecules to solid surfaces are also underway. For example, the point-contact tunneling amplitude for the fractional quantum Hall effect was recently exactly computed.