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Condensed Matter Physics

Condensed matter physics is the field of study and inquiry into the fundamental properties of matter and radiation, and the physical phenomena that result from their interactions. It is also a field of physics which has led to many technological applications that have revolutionized modern society - from the transistor and silicon based electronics, from magnetic memory storage and liquid crystal displays in our laptops to ultra-sensitive superconducting magnetometers (called SQUIDS) for mapping brain activity to nuclear magnetic resonance imaging for medical screening and analysis, etc.

At a fundamental level condensed matter physics is a diverse field of research in large part because systems composed of very large numbers (N ≈ 1023) of atoms and molecules exhibit a seemingly unlimited variety of macroscopic phases and correspondingly an enormous breadth of physical phenomena. It is the latter that is at the root of the many technological developments.

Theoretical research in condensed matter physics involves the discovery of new concepts related to the collective behavior of enormous numbers of atomic constituents, combined with the application of statistical mechanics and quantum theory to describe and predict the behavior of macroscopic matter. The concept of ``spontaneous symmetry breaking'' was developed as an organizing principle in condensed matter physics from the theory of phase transitions and emergent physical properties of the lower symmetry phase of matter. The ideas and mathematics underlying the connections between symmetry, symmetry breaking, phase transitions, collective behavior and emergent properties of matter are so powerful and general that the conceptual framework of `spontaneous symmetry breaking' is a cornerstone of nearly every sub-field of physics and physical sciences - from the forces governing the `families' of sub-atomic particles to the regular structures observed in crystals or the patterns that evolve in non-equilibrium fluid motion. [read more]

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Last Updated: April 2015 Home