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Condensed Matter Physics

ph324 / 335 / 336 / 338


Condensed Matter Phyisics draws on concepts from many areas covered in the first two years of the physics degree: mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum physics, statistical physics all contribute to the range of properties that make solids and liquids distinct. The Condensed Matter modules cover electronic and structural aspects of condensed matter along with mechanical, electronic and magnetic phenomena. A range of experimental techniques used in condensed matter physics is introduced as we go along, with an emphasis on x-ray diffraction.

We offer four modules at Year-3 level in this subject area. One of these, ph324 Concepts in Condensed Matter is a core module in sem.1 that will explain the main ideas and phenomena within the field and give context for more detailed study. Students without a specialisation in a different area of physics take ph335 Condensed Matter - Structure Determination in parallel, a module which emphasises experimental techniques used to study the structure and properties of solids. In sem.2, we offer the module ph338 Materials Physics which highlights the properties and function of a number of different material classes, while the parallel module ph336 Semiconductor Technology focuses on electronic structure and semiconductor devices.

Contents   [subject index]

ph338 - Materials Physics

  1. Soft Matter
    (by Chris Finlayson)
  2. Superconductors
    (by Chris Finlayson)
  3. Nanomaterials
    (by Chris Finlayson)
  4. Phase transitions

ph336 - Semiconductor Technology

  1. Semiconductor interfaces
    (by Andrew Evans)
  2. Semiconductor devices
    (by Dave Langstaff)


There will be six worksheets, some online assessments, an essay and three exams. In addition, there will be credit-bearing approximately weekly revision quiz questions on Blackboard (Aber only) for some of these modules. The table indicates the approximate timescales (details on Blackboard) and topics covered in each assessment:

throughout sem.1ph32410%weekly quizzes
throughout sem.1ph33510%weekly quizzes
mid sem.1ph32410%problem sheetElectronic structure
mid sem.1ph33510%problem sheetMicroscopy, crystallography
late sem.1ph32410%problem sheetCrystal structures, lattice dynamics, magnetic properties
late sem.1ph33510%problem sheetDiffraction
throughout sem.2ph33810%weekly quizzes
mid sem.2ph33615%technical report
mid sem.2ph33810%problem sheetSoft matter, superconductors
late sem.2ph33615%problem sheet
late sem.2ph33810%problem sheetPhase transitions

Further reading

These recommendations are for my parts of the Condensed Matter modules. The first two texts will also be relevant to the sections taught by others, but there will be other specialist texts for those sections, too.

The classic text in this field is Charles Kittel's Introduction to Solid State Physics. There are a number of copies of different vintage in the library, any of which will do nicely. There is a recent edition available, but the additions are at the boundaries of the course content. [Primo]

Richard Tilley's Understanding Solids is another general book on the topic and includes a large number of self test exercises with solutions. In addition to the hardcopies in the library, the full text is also available online via AU institutional subscription. [Primo]

Martin Dove's Structure and Dynamics is very good and detailed on things like phase transitions, crystallography and order parameter theory. In these areas, it goes well beyond the lecture but doesn't cover all of the remaining topics. [Primo]

Finally, for the more engineering-minded, JC Anderson, KD Leaver, RD Rawlings and JM Alexander's Materials Science is a good addition that will take you beyond the immediate course content. [Primo]


To get started, let's define the field of Condensed Matter physics and highlight some important topics within it.