Condensed matter theory
Condensed matter theory aims to understand what happens in systems with large numbers of components. The systems might be composed of molecules, electrons, or even living organisms. We study how the components interact with each other, and how this leads to unusual behaviour and novel applications.
Research ranges from soft and hard condensed matter to optoelectronic devices
Newton's laws of motion are often successful in describing the dynamics of systems of atoms and molecules, and Schrodinger's equation can be used to understand much of materials physics. But looking at the equations themselves gives no hint of the important physical phenomena like crystal formation or the operation of solar cells contained within their solution. Similarly, even simple interactions between living organisms can result in unexpected spatial or social organisation.
These examples show that simple equations and simple systems can support complex emergent behaviour. Fortunately, mathematical and computational tools from theoretical physics are ideal for understanding the complex phenomena that are observed in nature. In the condensed matter theory group, we exploit methods like Monte Carlo simulation, network analysis and density functional theory. We use them to investigate:
- Electronic structure and dynamics (Simon Crampin, Marcin Mucha-Kruczynski)
- Strongly correlated electronic systems (Stephen Clark)
- Plastic solar cells and optoelectronic devices (Alison Walker)
- Soft matter: liquids, glasses, colloids and biomolecules (Nigel Wilding, Rob Jack)
- Animal social behaviour (Dick James)
There are opportunities for postgraduate research throughout our group. Interested students can either contact academic staff directly or see the Physics PhD project page.
Social animal networks also feature in our research
The group environment
The Condensed Matter Theory group carries out research in diverse fields and in collaboration with many other groups across the world.
For numerical calculations, we make use of dedicated group computing servers as well as the university's high performance kilonode computing cluster which provides a powerful resource for tackling computationally intensive problems.
We have regular seminars on research within the group and frequent visits from external speakers. By meeting together in this way, we are able to share new methods and identify novel problems for future study.