The Department of Physics pursues an exceptionally broad spectrum of fundamental and applied research in condensed matter physics. The topics include defect characterization, ferroelectrics and piezoelectrics, fuel cells, interfacial growth, magnetism (bulk and thin film), nanotechnology, phase transitions, spintronics, superconductivity, structural studies using x-ray and neutron diffraction, and specimen synthesis including single-crystal and thin-film growth.
State-of-the art experimental facilities at MSU enable measurements to temperatures as low as 0.3 K. We are leaders in the measurement of thermal expansion, using a novel device developed at MSU that is capable of detecting sub-angstrom length changes of specimens to study phase transitions and critical phenomena with superb resolution. Our Ion Beams Laboratory conducts experiments on thin films and buried solid-solid interfaces to reveal fundamental properties and growth mechanics of importance for fuel cells and electronic devices. Ceramics for fuel cells are fabricated and tested for their electrical properties. The spectroscopy group investigates defects in advanced materials at the atomic level using a host of techniques such as EPR, ENDOR and optical spectroscopy, with the goal of engineering new properties for novel applications in photonics and information technology. The Center of Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials utilizes biological molecules as templates for the synthesis of nanoparticles with unusual physical properties; this interdisciplinary effort thrives on close collaboration among biologists, chemists, and physicists at MSU. Somes experiments are also conducted at facilities such as the High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The research groups in condensed matter physics are as follows:-
Imaging and Chemical Analysis Laboratory (ICAL)
Dr Recep Avci, Professor of Physics
ICAL was established to promote interdisciplinary collaboration in research, education, and industry, and to strengthen existing cooperation between the physical, biological, and engineering sciences by providing critically needed analytical facilities.
At present there are seven complimentary microanalytical systems in the laboratory. ICAL researchers are currently participating in numerous exciting research areas which include; Nanoscale imaging, Microbial adhesion, Force spectroscopy, Nano elasticity, Bioprobe development, Surface functionalization, Laser activated atom migration.
For more details see:
Dr Richard Smith, Professor of Physics
Structure and properties of thin films and buried solid-solid interfaces:
Thin film structures may exhibit new and unexpected properties when the thickness is decreased to the nanometer range, typical of current electronic and magnetic thin film devices. Experimental efforts, including computer simulations, are aimed at understanding the mechanisms controlling the growth of such ultrathin films, the formation of crystal structures not existing for the bulk materials, the evolution of structure and composition at solid-solid interfaces, and the use of atomically thin interlayers to provide stable templates for thin film growth (see figure). The use of nanometer-thick layers with alternating composition is being investigated for controlling interdiffusion, electrical conductivity, and oxidation resistance of metal surfaces, including applications as bipolar plates in solid oxide fuel cells.
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Magnetic Nanostructure Growth and Characterization Facility
Dr Yves Idzerda, Professor of Physics
This facility is dedicated to the growth and characterization of magnetic films, magnetic particles, and magnetic interfaces with the goal of understanding their intrinsic behavior. A technological example of the utility of such films is in non-volatile magnetic random access memories (MRAM), high density archival storage, and magnetic nano-particle based sensors.
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Magnetic Resonance Laboratory
Dr Galina Malovichko, Associate Professor of Physics
Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Defects in Solids:
The Group of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy studies extrinsic (impurity) and intrinsic defects to tailor properties of novel materials for advanced applications of XXI century (photonic processors, high-density non-volatile memory and other elements for communication technologies). The lab is equipped with the unique
spectroscopic system for Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR), Electron Nuclear Double Resonance, and simultaneous EPR-optical investigations. The modern software based on the relativistic quantum mechanics approach allows obtaining detailed information about studied defects on the atomic level: impurity position and its charge state, local surrounding of the impurity and distribution of electron wave function, mechanisms of charge compensation and recharge processes. All above mentioned contributes to fundamental physics of defects, giving a solid background for defect engineering.
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High-resolution thermal expansion cell developed at Montana State University. Constructed entirely of fused quartz, with egligible thermal expansion. Expansion of the sample changes the spacing between the capacitor plates
Superconductivity and Magnetism in Novel Materials
Dr John Neumeier, Professor of Physics
The study of novel materials can lead to important discoveries that will enhance our understanding of condensed matter systems and drive future technologies. Materials under investigation include high temperature superconductors, low-dimensional (or anisotropic) systems, ferromagnets that exhibit colossal magnetoresistance, and magnetocaloric compounds. Measurements of thermodynamic (heat capacity, thermal expansion, and magnetization) and electrical transport properties are conducted over the temperature range 0.3 K < T < 400 K using state-of-the-art equipment. Our thermal expansion technique, the only one of its kind in the world, is capable of detecting sub angstrom length changes (see photo) of millimeter-sized specimens. This is applied in the study of critical phenomena (phase transitions) with unprecedented sensitivity. Specimens for these investigations are synthesized in the department. Single crystal growth is conducted with an optical-image furnace which uses high-powered lamps and elliptical focusing technology; this furnace is one of only twelve in the USA
Superconductivity, Superfluidity, Magnetism
Dr Vorontsov, Assistant Professor
Our group investigates new aspects of superconductivity and superfluidity in ‘extreme’ environments. By extreme conditions we mean here systems where superconducting state is strongly modified compared with the undisturbed uniform state. Such environments may arise (a) when external magnetic fields act on the superconducting state; (b) superconducting phase appears in confined geometry (films,nanodots); (c) competing orders are present, most importantly magnetism. The new quasiparticle states that appear in these environments can manifest themselves through exotic symmetries and topological properties of the macroscopic states. This may give insight into the nature of the superconducting states in a a particular material, and lead to development of new technological applications.
Electro-Active Materials Laboratory
Dr Hugo Schmidt, Professor Emeritus of Physics
Solid state research areas currently include dielectric, ferroelectric, piezoelectric, photovoltaic, photostrictive, and electrochemical materials.
- High Strain Piezoelectric Project:
Currently focuses on characterizing the physical and structural properties of high-strain piezo/ferroelectric single crystals such as Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)1-xTixO3 (PMNT) and Pb(Zn1/3Nb2/3)1-xTixO3 (PZNT) for applications in the next generation of electrochemical transducers. Exploring photo-induced strain (phototstriction) in PMNT crystals doped with tungsten and searching for lead-free high-strain single crystals in cooperation with crystal growers are also in our research interests.
- Piezoelectric and Conductive Polymers Project:
Patterned electrodes of conductive polymer are being placed on piezoelectric polymers to improve performance of bimorphs and actuators. The polymers are then tested, characterized and compared to the theoretical results that are also being established.
- Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Project:
Synthesis, processing, and electrical, electrochemical, microstructural, and compositional characterizations of solid oxide fuel cell materials and cells.
- Hydrogen Separation Membrane Project:
Synthesis, processing, characterizations, and testing of hydrogen separation membranes.
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Dr Lapeyre Research Laboratory
Dr Gerald Lapeyre, Professor Emeritus of Physics
Prof. Lapeyre's recent research concerns the determination of the electronic and physical structure of semiconductor and exotic charge ordered materials using synchrotron radiation both as a spectrographic probe to establish the electronic states of the system, and through photoelectron holography to determine the spatial location. Recent work includes the absorption site of methane on silicon(100)-(2x1) surface using photoelectron holography and the determination of localized states on the surface of GaN. Much of his research requires synchrotron radiation and occurs at the Wisconsin Synchrotron Center at the University of Wisconsin and the Advanced Light Source of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories.