Physics and Astronomy

Solid State Physics

solid state physics

Solid state physics is, in its broadest sense, quite simply the study of solids.  Solid State physicists study magnetic, electric, and structural properties as well as other aspects of solids.  In recent years, the field of solid state physics is often combined with the study of liquids under the broader heading, condensed matter physics.  Applications in condensed matter are quite numerous and the field employs a very high percentage of physicists.  In fact, the highest attendance (~9000 attendees) at any physics meeting is for the March meeting of the American Physical Society, a meeting principally for condensed matter physicists.

high temperature superconductor graph.  Resistivity vs Temperature in Kelvins

Kurt Vandervoort

Professor Vandervoort has been involved in several aspects of solid state research.  He and student coworkers have studied the magnetic properties of high temperature superconductors.  These materials have been developed in the last thirty years and exhibit zero resistance to current flow at temperatures higher than the boiling point of nitrogen.  More recently, he has pursued investigations in the field of nanotechnology.  He uses scanning probe microscopes, instruments with atomic resolution that work by rastering a small probe across the surface of a sample.  His most recent research involving students uses one of these instruments, a scanning tunneling microscope, to produce extremely thin nanowires, that exhibit quantized conductance.  Instrumentation in Dr. Vandervoort's lab includes several commercial instruments, namely a Quesant atomic force microscope used mainly for other research (see Optics and Biophysics page), as well as a home-built scanning tunneling microscope and a home-built superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) magnetometer.

Jorge Botana Alcalde
Assistant Professor

Dr Botana and his group of undergrad researchers have focused on the theoretical study of solid-state systems by using ab initio calculations. His group has studied the structural and chemical properties of crystalline matter under extreme conditions of pressure using density functional theory (DFT) calculations, aided by the systematic structure search algorithm PSO (Particle Swarm Optimization).

In their most recent work, they studied the thermodynamic instability of Fe-U compounds in the conditions in the Earth’s inner core. However, U may exist as point defects within crystalline iron, effectively stabilizing specific iron phases, which could affect Earth's energy budget. They have also studied the high-pressure compounds and alloying of Fe with several light elements (S, O, C, H, Mg), which has implications in the Earth’s inner core properties and the study of steel properties.

Their methods also have allowed Dr Botana and his group to explore novel high-pressure chemistry, predicting unique chemical phenomena like new and counterintuitive oxidation numbers for elements like Li and Hg, and the existence of ionic crystals where individual electrons occupy ionic sites, independently from any atom.

D. Neff, A. Hoemke, A.R.Attig, and H.C. Mireles, "Developing a Kerr Microscope for Upper-Division Solid State Physics Laboratories." (2013) American Journal of Physics, in press (Manuscript #25511)

K. Vandervoort and G. Brelles-Mariño, Cal Poly Pomona NUE Project: Implementing Microscale and Nanoscale Investigations Throughout the Undergraduate Curriculum. (2013) J. Nano Educ. 5, 51-60 

A. Martinez, H.C. Mireles, and I.I. Smalyukh, "Massively Parallel Optoelastic Manipulation of Colloids & Structures Using Light-Controlled Molecular Monolayers." (2011) Proceedings of that National Academy of Sciences 108, No 52, 20891-20896

K. G. Vandervoort, T. T. Nguyen, M. A. Demine, and W. K. Kwok, Measurements of the Meissner fraction as a function of oxygen ordering for oxygen deficient YBa2Cu3O7-d single crystals. (2006) Superconductor Science and Technology 19, 980

K. G. Vandervoort, S. L. Adams, and A. M. Hyder, Revealing the blaze angle: a simple experiment for visualizing diffraction effects using microscopic and macroscopic gratings. (2006) Am. J. Phys. 74, 649

S. Demirtas, M.R. Hossu, R.E. Camley, H.C. Mireles and A.R. Koymen,  "Tuneable Magnetic Thermal Hysteresis in Transition Metal (Fe, Co and CoNi) /Rare Earth (Gd) Multilayers." Physical Review Letters – B, 184, 18443

B. B. Lewis, K. G. Vandervoort, and R. D. Foster, Measurements of Quantized Conductance in Gallium as a Function of Temperature. (1999) Solid State Communications 109, 525