Our world-leading research in quantum materials, biological physics as well as semiconductor materials, photovoltaics and nanoscience puts us at the forefront of new discoveries that have the potential to forever change the way we live our lives.
The Condensed Matter Physics sub-department comprises research groups that, between them, cover a wide range of areas including the structure of ordered and disordered solids, electronic properties, electron correlations in quantum materials, superconductors, spin electronics, nano-materials, quantum information processing, organic molecular crystals, photonic crystals, biological physics, molecular motors, functional membrane proteins, DNA nanostructures, nano-electronics and nano-optics. We have 25 full-time academics, over 60 postdocs and over 100 graduate students in our research-intensive environment.
The sub-department’s research falls naturally into three general themes: biological physics, quantum materials, and semiconductor materials, photovoltaics and nanoscience.
Biologically inspired physics is an extraordinarily wide field, covering the behaviour of systems from single-molecule machines to organisms, ecosystems and evolution. We use the tools of physics to address biological problems and biology to create new tools of physics. We have common interests in active systems, molecular machinery and information in biology. The field contributes to biological questions requiring measurement or understanding of interactions, thermodynamics, forces, motion and collective behaviour – that is, fundamental questions of biology from sub-cellular mechanisms to the development and function of multicellular organisms and the evolution and behaviour of populations. Many of these questions, and tools, are of vital importance to medicine and to the development of future technologies and materials.
Our goal is to create and understand new quantum states of matter as well as exploit their properties for the next generation of functional devices. In many of today's most interesting materials, strong interactions prevail upon the magnetic moments, the electrons and the underlying crystal structure, often forming strong links between these different aspects of the system. Such materials can exhibit exciting physical phenomena whose description requires new quantum mechanical models to be developed – examples include superconductors, magnets, topological insulators, and multiferroics. Several research groups within quantum materials are actively studying quantum matter, exposing a variety of materials to different experimental techniques in order to gain a better understanding of quantum theories of matter – and inform the materials and devices of tomorrow.
Semiconductor materials, photovoltaics and nanoscience
Our work focusses on growing, analysing and understanding the fundamental properties of both organic and inorganic electronic materials, from the macro to the nanoscale. We use techniques such as X-ray diffraction, THz, time-resolved and excitation spectroscopy and undertake various optical, electronic transport, magnetic and performance measurements on our samples. We also fabricate novel materials into functioning devices such as photovoltaic cells and LEDs; recent work has centred on perovskite and organic materials, and inorganic quantum dots. We are home to the National Thin-film Cluster Facility for the deposition of advanced functional materials which allows us to investigate a broad portfolio of new materials and composites, and to develop and integrate these into highly functional devices. It provides a basis to enhance the device performance of organic and hybrid organic-inorganic structures to rival and then exceed those of conventional inorganic semiconductors in a range of applications and to take these into new and exciting areas.