Condensed matter (CM) physics is perhaps most famous as the field that produced the transistor 60 years ago. This discovery has transformed society on a global scale and is an example of how support of basic research today could lead to transformative technologies of the future.
CM deals with the properties of large aggregations of atoms or molecules, including their magnetic and electrical characteristics, and the ways in which the quantum properties of atoms influence those of their neighbors and of the material as a whole.
CM investigations are responsible for our knowledge of the "super" properties of matter in unusual states, such as superconductivity (absence of electrical resistance) and superfluidity (absence of viscosity or liquid friction), both of which are fundamentally quantum phenomena. Superconductors are now making their way into the electric power grid and wireless telephone infrastructures. small vacuum sphere.
Another traditional CM subject involves the study and manipulation of atoms in various sorts of orderly geometrical arrangements. In a crystal, such as the silicon materials used to make microchips or the layered oxide arrays of superconductors, component atoms align themselves to form regular, repeating, three-dimensional patterns with consistent spacing. Even seemingly minor changes in the pattern can have dramatic effects on the material's chemical and electrical properties. The study of how these seemingly minor defects influence the gross electrical properties of matter is an area of intense interest for both fundamental and practical reasons.
Much of CM physics revolves around the idea of “emergent properties.” Atoms are known to have certain properties governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. However when a large number of identical atoms are brought together in a regular array qualitatively new properties emerge, many of which are very difficult to predict from knowledge of the properties of the individual atoms. Examples include superconductivity, ferromagnetism, and ferroelectricity. CNAM researchers are actively investigating these emergent properties on a number of fronts.
Issues of particular interest in CNAM include correlated electron physics, e.g. superconductivity, reduced-dimensionality electron systems, quantum-based mesoscopics, spintronics, quantum condensed phases and semiconductors.