Condensed Matter Physics

The range of phenomena studied by condensed matter scientists worldwide has grown tremendously in recent years, and the diversification is reflected in the scope research carried out within the condensed matter group. Our faculty lead outstanding research efforts in a range of areas including ultrafast processes, the emerging field of quantum computation, composite particle states, and large-bandgap semiconductors, and the physics of biological systems.

The largest theme of the experimental efforts in our department is the quantum mechanical nature of material systems, with research ongoing in eight department laboratories.  Wolfgang Choyke and Robert Devaty study large-bandgap semiconductors, especially silicon carbide, which has already led to electronic power devices with much greater efficiency and substrates for LED lights. Brian D'Urso researches nanostructures, their mechanical properties, and their interactions with other systems. Gurudev Dutt investigates the quantum control of condensed matter systems, notably quantum spins in diamond or semiconductor quantum dots. Sergey Frolov studies Majorana Fermion quasiparticles in semiconductor nanowires combined with superconductors, and single electron quantum bits in nanowires. Michael Hatridge develops superconducting microwave circuits as a platform for quantum computing. Jeremy Levy, Guanglei Cheng, and Patrick Irvin focus on the development of nanoscale electronic materials and devices for future classical and quantum information processing applications. Hrvoje Petek, Min Feng, and Jin Zhao investigate dynamical phenomena on femtosecond time scales insolid state materials and at solid surfaces. David Snoke studies new types of electronic states in two-dimensional semiconductors, particularly excitons and polaritons. Judith Yang (primary appointment in Engineering) studies surface chemistry and physics of materials using electron microscopy techniques.

Complementary theoretical efforts are led by Vincent Liu and David Pekker on the quantum mechanical properties of many-body systems of ultracold atoms, Rob Coalson (primary appointment in Chemistry) on simulations of experimentally observable quantum dynamical signatures in condensed phase systems, and Roger Mong on topological phases and simulation of quantum systems. Daniel Boyanovsky, with interestsranging across fields from condensed matter to cosmology, applies techniques of quantum many-body theory to non-equilibrium processes.

Our department also hosts research in soft condensed matter physics and biophysical systems. Walter Goldburg (emeritus) performs experiments on turbulence in two and three-dimensional fluids. David Jasnow (emeritus) applies the tools of condensed matter theory to biological systems, currently the statistics of rare biological events and the dynamical evolution of neural networks. Hanna Salman experiments on the collective dynamics of bacterial populations, and scaling laws of epigenetic expression in bacteria. Xiao-Lun Wu experiments on turbulence in two-dimensional films, bacteria dynamics, and stochastic fluctuations in genetic networks.

Activities in the Condensed Matter group are supported by two related Institutes. The Petersen Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering (PINSE) promotes interdisciplinary research in nanoscience across the departments of Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, and Engineering. It offers facilities, housed in Benedum Hall, for both characterization and fabrication of nanomaterials. The Pittsburgh Quantum Institute (PQI) helps unify and promote research in quantum science in the Pittsburgh area, and includes participants from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Duquesne University.

Research projects in this area of physics are usually carried out in laboratory facilities at the University of Pittsburgh by small groups of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows under the leadership of a faculty member. Graduate students participate actively in all phases of experiments, from planning and equipment construction to data collection, analysis, and the presentation of results. Some projects also involve collaborations with scientists from life sciences, chemistry, or engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and other institutions.