condensed-matter physics

Condensed matter physics

[kuhn-denst-mat-er]
Condensed matter physics is the field of physics that deals with the macroscopic physical properties of matter. In particular, it is concerned with the "condensed" phases that appear whenever the number of constituents in a system is extremely large and the interactions between the constituents are strong. The most familiar examples of condensed phases are solids and liquids, which arise from the bonding and electromagnetic force between atoms. More exotic condensed phases include the superfluid and the Bose-Einstein condensate found in certain atomic systems at very low temperatures, the superconducting phase exhibited by conduction electrons in certain materials, and the ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic phases of spins on atomic lattices. Condensed matter physics is that branch of physics which deals with the macroscopic physical properties of matter namely, solid and liquid, when their constituents are large and strong.

Condensed matter physics is by far the largest field of contemporary physics. Much progress has also been made in theoretical condensed matter physics. By one estimate, one third of all US physicists identify themselves as condensed matter physicists. Historically, condensed matter physics grew out of solid-state physics, which is now considered one of its main subfields. The term "condensed matter physics" was apparently coined by Philip Anderson and Volker Heine when they renamed their research group at Cavendish Laboratory - previously "solid-state theory" - in 1967. In 1978, the Division of Solid State Physics at the American Physical Society was renamed as the Division of Condensed Matter Physics. Condensed matter physics has a large overlap with chemistry, materials science, nanotechnology and engineering.

One of the reasons for calling the field "condensed matter physics" is that many of the concepts and techniques developed for studying solids actually apply to fluid systems. For instance, the conduction electrons in an electrical conductor form a type of quantum fluid with essentially the same properties as fluids made up of atoms. In fact, the phenomenon of superconductivity, in which the electrons condense into a new fluid phase in which they can flow without dissipation, is very closely analogous to the superfluid phase found in He 4 at low temperatures and He 3 when two of these atoms pair and thus take on boson properties.

Topics in condensed matter physics

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