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PX431 Structure and Dynamics of Solids

Lecturer: Tom Hase and Marin Alexe
Weighting: 15 CATS

Characterising and, where possible, controlling the structure of materials is one the most important areas of research in science. The microscopic structure of a material determines its mechanical strength, its electrical properties and, at surfaces, the way the material interacts with the outside world (for example as a catalyst, in electrical contacts or as it corrodes). The first half of this module looks at the methods for identifying and studying structure. The second half studies how the distribution of charge and current flows affect the structural and electrical properties of insulators and semiconductors.

To cover a range of theoretical concepts and practical techniques used in experimental condensed matter physics. Topics covered will be in the areas of the structural and electrical properties of solids.

At the end of the module you should:

  • Have a good understanding of crystal structure
  • Be able to explain charge flow and charge distribution in semiconductors and ferroic materials
  • Understand and be able to describe appropriate experimental techniques to measure physical properties of materials
  • Appreciate a range of research topics in materials physics


  1. Part I (15L)
    • Revision of second and third year material on structure of solids – bonding, crystal structure and symmetry
    • crystal growth
    • Phase Transitions and Phase Diagrams
    • Kinematical X-ray diffraction: revision, theory and analysis
    • Real crystals and their defects
    • Surfaces, thin films and growth techniques
    • Strain engineering devices (Nanostrain)
  2. Part II (15L)
    • Revision of second and third year material on semiconductors and the photoelectric effect
    • Semiconductors out of equilibrium; metal-semiconductor contacts
    • Transport and charge injection in insulators
    • Piezoresistive materials and force sensors
    • Piezoelectric and pyroelectric materials and applications
    • Ferroelectric materials and multiferroics
    • Phase transitions in ferroics
    • Materials for non-volatile memories

Commitment: 30 lecture slots to include a variety of lectures, directed reading and seminars

Assessment: 2 hour examination.

The module has a website.

Recommended Text: M.T. Dove, Structure and Dynamics, OUP; S. R. Elliott, The physics and chemistry of solids, Wiley; D.P. Woodruff and T.A. Delchar, Modern Techniques of Surface Science, CUP; S Blundell, Magnetism in Condensed Matter, OUP.

Leads from: PX385 Condensed Matter Physics