Condensed Matter & Materials Physics

The focus of condensed matter and materials physics (CMMP) is understanding how underlying laws unfold in the physical world around us. A typical system consists of many individual particles or units which have coalesced into a medium with new, often surprising, properties. Superconductors and liquid crystals are two classic examples. In recent years, CMMP has grown to be tremendously broad. Topics being actively pursued include, for instance, strong correlations between electrons in novel materials, quantum phenomena in low dimensional systems, phases and dynamics of soft matter, quantum phase transitions, far from equilibrium phenomena, and granular materials. Here at Duke, we focus on two areas of condensed matter and materials physics: quantum phenomena in nanometer scale systems, and nonlinear and complex systems.

Experiments on these topics are typically carried out by individual students who have the opportunity to explore all aspects of a project, including design, construction, and data analysis. Theoretical progress relies on the adaptation and extension of many-body theory and dynamical systems theory, distilling the crucial features of the system into models that can be studied either analytically or numerically.

Nanoscience / Quantum Emergent Phenomena

Fundamental interest in nanophysics -- the physics of small, nanometer scale, bits of solid -- stems from the ability to control and probe systems on length scales larger than atoms but small enough that the averaging inherent in bulk properties has not yet occurred. Using this ability, entirely unanticipated phenomena can be uncovered on the one hand, and the microscopic basis of bulk phenomena can be probed on the other. Additional interest comes from the many links between nanophysics and nanotechnology. Key issues currently in nanophysics include how novel quantum collective behavior emerges from simple elements, connections to quantum information (entanglement), and the role of topological states in a variety of settings. For descriptions of particular projects, see the webpages arranged by faculty (Baranger, Barthel, Chandrasekharan, Chang, Finkelstein, and Teitsworth).

Nonlinear and Complex Systems

The challenge in this area is to discover and characterize the collective behavior of complex systems, and to uncover the principles that connect the physics and logic of interactions between parts to the properties of the full system. This rapidly developing research area relies heavily on the concepts and language of nonlinear dynamics, and the evolution of this area of research at Duke began with physicists, geophysicists, mathematicians, and engineers recognizing they shared a common language. For descriptions of particular projects, see the webpages arranged by faculty (Behringer, Palmer, Socolar, and Teitsworth).

Condensed Matter & Materials Physics Faculty

  • Harold U. Baranger

    Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Theory of quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale; many-body effects in quantum dots and wires; conduction through single molecules; quantum computing; quantum phase transitions
  • Thomas Barthel

    Charles H. Townes Assistant Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Quantum many-body theory, strongly correlated systems, entanglement, phase transitions, response functions, nonequilibrium phenomena, simulation using DMRG and tensor network states; Theoretical and numerical investigation of ultra-cold atoms in optical lattices, phase transitions, nonequilibrium, thermometry
  • Robert P. Behringer

    James B. Duke Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Experiments on instabilities and pattern formation in fluids; flow, jamming, and stress patterns in granular materials
  • David N. Beratan

    R.J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry
    Research Interest:
    Molecular underpinnings of energy harvesting and charge transport in biology; the mechanism of solar energy capture and conversion in man-made structures
  • Shailesh Chandrasekharan

    Associate Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Theoretical studies of quantum phase transitions using quantum Monte Carlo methods; lattice QCD; Quantum Critical Behavior in Fermion Systems, Using the generalized fermion bag algorithm, Applications to Graphene and Unitary Fermi Gas
  • Albert M. Chang

    Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Experiments on quantum transport at low temperature; one-dimensional superconductivity; dilute magnetic semiconductor quantum dots; Hall probe scanning
  • Patrick Charbonneau

    Associate Professor of Chemistry
    Research Interest:
    In- and out-of-equilibrium dynamical properties of self-assembly. Important phenomena, such as colloidal microphase formation, protein aggregation
  • Stefano Curtarolo

    Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
    Research Interest:
    Nanoscale/microscale computing systems & Quantum Information
  • Gleb Finkelstein

    Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Electronic transport in carbon nanotubes and graphene; Inorganic nanostructures based on self-assembled DNA scaffolds; Experiments on quantum transport at low temperature; carbon nanotubes; Kondo effect; cryogenic scanning microscopy; self-assembled DNA template
  • Sara Haravifard

    William M. Fairbank Assistant Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Exploring novel phenomena in quantum magnets and superconductors by means of neutron and x-ray scattering techniques; Investigating quantum critical phenomena at extreme environmental conditions. Materials by Design: synthesis, single crystal growth and characterization
  • Jianfeng Lu

    Associate Professor of Mathematics
    Research Interest:
    Mathematical analysis and algorithm development for problems from computational physics, theoretical chemistry, material sciences and others
  • Maiken Mikkelsen

    Nortel Networks Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Research Interest:
    Experiments in Nanophysics & Condensed Matter Physics
  • David R. Smith

    James B. Duke Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
    Research Interest:
    Theory, simulation and characterization of unique electromagnetic structures, including photonic crystals and metamaterials
  • Joshua Socolar

    Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Organization and function of complex dynamical networks, especially biological networks, including electronic circuits and social interaction networks; Theory of dynamics of complex networks; Modeling of gene regulatory networks; Structure formation in colloidal systems; Tiling theory and nonperiodic long-range order; Theory of dynamics of random networks with applications to gene regulation; stress patterns in granular materials; stabilization of periodic orbits in chaotic systems
  • Stephen W. Teitsworth

    Associate Professor of Physics
    Research Interest:
    Experiments on nonlinear dynamics of currents in semiconductors
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    Meimei Wang

    Affiliate
    Research Interest:
  • Weitao Yang

    Philip Handler Professor of Chemistry in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences
    Research Interest:
    Developing methods for quantum mechanical calculations of large systems and carrying out quantum mechanical simulations of biological systems and nanostructures