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Condensed Matter and Materials Physics

Core Research Areas: Experimental Condensed Matter Physics, Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics, Physical Behavior of Materials, and Mechanical Behavior of Materials and Radiation Effects
Scientific Team Lead: TBD

This program area focuses on fundamental understanding and control of materials and on discovery of new phenomena through activities in experimental and theoretical condensed matter and materials physics. This is accomplished through studies of structural, mechanical, electrical, magnetic and optical properties of materials. Research that characterizes the response of materials to temperature, stress, electric and magnetic fields, radiation, chemical and electrochemical environment, proximity to surfaces or interfaces, and to the existence and motion of intrinsic and extrinsic defects is conducted. 

The program area includes the development of predictive models for discovery of new materials with targeted properties, new materials properties and interpretation of experiment.  It emphasizes co-operative and correlation effects which can lead to formation of new quasi-particles, new phases of matter and unexpected phenomena.


Characterization of Functional Nanomachines

Program Leader: Michael Crommie
Co-PI's: Alex Zettl, Carlos Bustamante, Marvin Cohen, Gerard Marriott, Steven Louie

The goal of this program is to understand the fundamental principles of nanomachine systems and to apply those principles toward the creation of new molecule-based nanomachines capable of converting energy into directed mechanical action at the nanoscale.  We seek to understand the microscopic mechanisms underlying nanomechanical energy conversion in both synthetic and naturally occurring nanomachines that operate in different dissipative environments.  Establishing new techniques to achieve controlled “bottom-up” fabrication of molecular nanostructures at surfaces is an important component of this program.


I.V. Pechenezhaskiy, X. Hong, G.D. Nguyen, J.E. Dajl, R.M.K. Carlson, F. Weng, and M.F. Crommie. Infrared spectroscopy of molecular submonolayers on surfaces by infrared scanning tunneling microscopy: tetramantane on Au(111). Phys. Rev. Lett. 111, 126101 (2013).

S. Coh, W. Gannett, A. Zettl, M.L. Cohen, and S.G. Louie. Surface atom motion to move iron nanocrystals through constrictions in carbon nanotubes under the action of an electric current. Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 198901 (2013).


Electronic Materials

Program Leader: Ali Javey
Co-PI's: Joel Ager, Daryl Chrzan, Oscar Dubon, Wladyslaw Walukiewicz, Kin Man Yu, Junqiao Wu

Electronic Material Program (EMAT) discovers and creates semiconductors of novel composition and morphology for energy applications by removing chemical and physical constraints that limit materials performance and growth.   The program has three thrust areas:

  • Direct growth of single crystalline III-V semiconductors on amorphous substrates by using templated phase transitions at the nanoscale
  • Semiconductor quantum membranes: Spatial confinement, probing, and functionalization at the ideal limit
  • Band structure and interface tuning on command: Engineering band structures in semiconductor alloys, and electronic and structural properties at interfaces.

Common to these research themes is a synthetic strategy that allows control over structure and phase transitions at the nanoscale. In the case of quantum membranes, our ability to make and control free-standing 2-D semiconductors enables study of the interplay of quantum confinement and surface/interface properties with electronic structure and carrier transport at a fundamental level.  Focus has been on exploring their electrical and optoelectronic properties at the ideal limit by repairing/passivating their defects. Our control of materials composition via highly non-equilibrium synthesis techniques allows us to tune band structures and interface properties on command. By exploiting new insights in the nanoscale control of phase transitions, we can synthesize new functional structures.  As an example, we demonstrate for the first time single-crystalline growth of InP with user-defined shapes and geometry, from a few nm to 10’s of µm in lateral dimensions, on amorphous substrates.


H. Fang, C Battaglia, C. Carraro, S. Nemsak, B. Ozdol, J. S. Kang, H. A. Bechtel, S. B. Desai, F. Kronast, A. A. Unal, G. Conti, C. Conlon, G. K. Palsson, M. C. Martin, A.  M. Minor, C. S. Fadley, E. Yablonovitch, R. Maboudian, and A. Javey. Strong interlayer coupling in van der Waals heterostructures built from single-layer chalcogenides. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in press (2014).

H. Fang, H. A. Bechtel, E. Plis, M. C. Martin, S. Krishna, E. Yablonovitch, and A. Javey. Quantum of Optical Absorption in Two-Dimensional Semiconductors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (29), 11688-11691 (2013).

R. Kapadia, Z. Yu, H.-H. H. Wang, M. Zheng, C. Battaglia, M. Hettick, D. Kiriya, K. Takei, P. Lobaccaro, J. W. Beeman, J. W. Ager, R. Maboudian, D. C. Chrzan, and A. Javey. A direct thin-film path towards low-cost large-area III-V photovoltaics. Scientific Reports 3, 2275 (2013).


Mechanical Behavior of Advanced Materials

Program Leader: Robert Ritchie
Co-PI's: Mark Asta, Tony Tomsia

The attainment of strength and toughness is a vital requirement for structural materials; unfortunately these properties are generally mutually exclusive. It is the lower strength, and hence tougher, materials that find use for most safety-critical applications where premature, or worse still catastrophic, fracture is unacceptable. Accordingly, the development of strong and tough materials has traditionally been a compromise between hardness vs. ductility. The aim of this program is thus to seek the scientific strategies to solve this “conflict” by defining the basic scientific principles underlying the development of damage-tolerance in lightweight structural materials suitable for the strategic missions of energy and conservation/creation.

One approach involves the understanding of the scientific origins of damage-tolerance in new advanced metallic alloys, principally bulk-metallic glasses and high-entropy alloys, where the salient mechanisms involve a balance of intrinsic vs. extrinsic toughening.  A second approach involves using concepts of natural hierarchical design to examine the interfaces between the physical and biological sciences in the development of biomimetic hybrid ceramics. Our hypothesis here is that by mimicking natural structural architectures and identifying and incorporating the salient strengthening and toughening mechanisms at multiple length-scales, guided by theoretical modeling at atomistic to continuum levels, and coupled with the use of novel processing techniques, we can develop the scientific foundations for unique lightweight biomimetic structural ceramics materials with unprecedented levels of damage-tolerance. In all cases, our focus is on the scientific interplay between the individual nano/micro-mechanisms that contribute to strength and toughness, that of plasticity and crack-tip shielding, noting that these phenomena originate at very different structural length-scales.


M. Genet, G. Couégnat, A. P. Tomsia and R. O. Ritchie. Scaling Strength Distributions in Quasi-Brittle Materials from Micro- to Macro-Scales: A Computational Approach to Modeling Nature-Inspired Structural Ceramics. Journal of Mechanics and Physics of Solids 68, 93-106 (2014).

B. Delattre, H. Bai, R. O. Ritchie, J. De Coninck, and A. P. Tomsia. Unidirectional Freezing of Ceramics Suspensions: In Situ X-Ray Investigation of the Effects of Additives. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 6(1), 159-166 (2014).

B. Gludovatz, M. D. Demetriou, M. Floyd, A. Hohenwarter, W. L. Johnson and R. O. Ritchie. Enhanced Fatigue Endurance of Metallic Glasses through a “Staircase-like” Fracture Mechanism. PNAS 110 (46), 18419-18424 (2013).

V. Naglieri, H. A. Bale, B. Gludovatz, A. P. Tomsia, and R. O. Ritchie. On the Development of Ice-Templated Silicon Carbide Scaffolds for Nature-Inspired Structural Materials. Acta Materialia 61(18), 6748-6957 (2013).

M. R. Begley, N. R. Philips, B. G. Compton, D. V. Wilbrink, R. O. Ritchie, and M. Utz. Mechanical Models to Guide the Development of Synthetic 'Brick and Mortar' Composites. Journal of Mechanics and Physics of Solids 60(8), 1545-1560 (2012).

M. D. Demetriou, M. E. Launey, G. Garret, J. P. Schramm, D. C. Hofmann, W. L. Johnson, and R. O. Ritchie. A Damage Tolerant Glass. Nature Materials 10(2), 123-128 (2011).


Novel sp2-Bonded Materials and Related Nanostructures

Program Leader: Alex Zettl
Co-PI's: Carolyn Bertozzi, Marvin Cohen, Michael Crommie, Alessandra Lanzara, Steven Louie

The sp2 program investigates, both theoretically and experimentally, sp2-bonded structures which include carbon nanotubes, graphene, nanowires, onions, fullerenes, nanocrystals, hybrid structures, non-carbon nanomaterials (including BN), and nanococoons. We are interested in the design, synthesis, characterization, and application of sp2-bonded materials whose dimensions range from 1-100 nm.

This program has three major thrusts: The first, fundamentals, focuses on theoretical predictions of new stable structures, theoretical and experimental examinations of intrinsic electronic, magnetic, and mechanical responses, transport measurements (electrical resistivity, thermal conductivity, isotope effects, Raman, photoemission spectroscopy, TEM, STM), and mechanical properties and tensile strength. The second focus is on functionalized nanosystems, where two or more distinct nanostructures are brought together and allowed to interact. Here we focus on methodologies to integrate nanosystems comprised of nanotubes and other nanoparticles interfaced with complementary nanostructures. The third and final thrust is on growth of nanostructures. Novel synthesis methods are explored for non-equilibrium growth of sp2-based and other nanoscale materials. This program also seeks to develop specialized instrumentation for synthesis, characterization, and applications.


H.-H. Chen, G. Autès, N. Alem, F. Gargiulo, A. Gautam, M. Linck, C. Kisielowski, O. V. Yazyev, S. G. Louie and A. Zettl. Controlled growth of a line defect in graphene and implications for gate-tunable valley filtering. Phys. Rev. B. 89(121407) 1-5, (2014).

M. Rousseas, A.P. Goldstein, W. Mickelson, M.A. Worsley, L. Woo and A. Zettle. Synthesis of highly crystalline sp2-bonded boron nitride aerogels. ACS Nano 7(10), 8540-8546, (2013).

Y. Wang, D. Wong, A.V. Shytov, V.W. Brar, Q. Wu, H­Z. Tsai, W. Regan, A Zettl, R.K. Kawakami, S.G. Louie, L.S. Levitov, and M.F. Crommie. Observing subatomic collapse in artificial nuclei on graphene. 340 (6133), 734-737 (2013).

J.M. Yuk, J. Park, P. Ercius, K. Kim, D.J. Hellebusch, M.F. Crommie J.Y. Lee, A. Zettl, and A.P. Alivisatos. High-resolution EM of colloidal nanocrystal growth using graphene liquid cells. Science 336 (6077), 61-64 (2012).


Quantum Materials

Program Leader: Joe Orenstein
Co-PI's: Robert Birgeneau, Edith Bourret-Courchesne, Alessandra Lanzara, Dung-Hai Lee, Joel Moore, Ashvin Vishwanath

The Quantum Materials program focuses on condensed matter systems in which quantum mechanics plays an especially important role in determining the nature of ordered phases and the transitions that take place between them.  In these systems, competing spin, orbital, and lattice interactions yield a multiplicity of nearly degenerate ground states and complex phase diagrams that can be challenging to characterize. The challenges and opportunities presented by this class of materials motivates the overarching goal of the program, which is to understand, manipulate, and control competing forms of order that arise through interactions shaped by quantum physics. The pace, scale, and complexity of quantum materials research requires a team-oriented, rather than individual PI, approach.

The Quantum Materials group exemplifies this approach, combining theoretical and experimental efforts that comprise (i) extensive thin film and bulk crystal fabrication capabilities, (ii) advanced characterization tools including ARPES, ultrafast optical pump/probe, neutron and X-ray scattering, and transport and thermodynamic measurements, (iii) a theory group whose members are leaders in predictive and phenomenological methods. Currently the program is focused on three overlapping themes – high-temperature superconductivity, topological phases of matter, and strong-spin orbit coupling – in cuprate, iron-pnictide, and iridate compounds.

K.A. Modic, T.E. Smidt, I.Kimchi, N.P. Breznay, A. Biffin, S. Choi, R.D. Johnson, R. Coldea, P. Watkins-Curry, G.T. McCandless, J.Y. Chan, F. Gandara, Z. Islam, A.Vishwanath, A. Shekhter, R.D. McDonald, and J.G. Analytis. Realization of a three-dimensional spin-anisotropic harmonic honeycomb iridate. Nature Communications (2014).

C. Jozwiak, C-H. Park, K. Gotlieb, C. Hwang, D-H. Lee, S.G. Louie, J.D. Denlinger, C.R. Rotundu, R.J. Birgeneau, Z. Hussain, and A. Lanzara.  Photoelectron Spin-flipping and Texture Manipulation in a Topological Insulator. Nature Physics 9, 293 (2013).


Sub-wavelength Metamaterial Physics and Applications

Program Leader: Xiang Zhang
Co-PI's: Ron Shen, Eli Yablonovitch

This program explores a new class of photonic materials, metamaterials, by designing artificial atoms and molecules and their interactions. Our work investigates the novel physics of metamaterials to uncover unprecedented materials properties beyond that of natural materials.

Haim Suchowski, Kevin O’Brien, Zi Jing Wong, Alessandro Salandrino, Xiaobo Yin, Xiang Zhang. Phase Mismatch–Free Nonlinear Propagation in Optical Zero-Index Materials. Science 342, 1223-1226 (2013).

Xiaobo Yin, Ziliang Ye, Junsuk Rho, Yuan Wang, and Xiang Zhang. Photonic Spin Hall Effect at Metasurfaces. Science 339, 1405-1407 (2013).

Fang, H.; Bechtel, H.A.; Plis, E.; Martin, M.C.; Krishna, S.; Yablonovitch, E.; Javey, A. Quantum of Optical Absorption in Two-Dimensional Semiconductors. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 110, 11688-11691 (2013).

C. M. Lalau-Keraly, S. Bhargava, O. D. Miller, and E. Yablonovitch. Adjoint Shape Optimization Applied To Electromagnetic Design. Optics Express 21, 21693-21701 (2013).


Theory of Materials

Program Leader: Steven Louie
Co-PI's: Marvin Cohen, Jeff Neaton, Lin-Wang Wang, Dung-Hai Lee

In this program, we aim to understand and compute material properties and behaviors, covering systems that include complex materials, surfaces/interfaces, nanostructures, superconductors, and correlated electron systems.  Novel materials and new concepts are explored.  A variety of theoretical techniques are employed, ranging from first-principles electronic structure methods and many-body perturbation theory approaches to new conceptual and computational frameworks.


G. Zhang, A. Canning, N. Gronbech-Jensen, S. Derenzo, and L.-W. Wang. Shallow impurity level calculations in semiconductors using Ab Initio methods. Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 166404 (2013).

C. Jozwiak, C-H. Park, K. Gotlieb, C. Hwang, D-H. Lee, S.G. Louie, J.D. Denlinger, C.R. Rotundu, R.J. Birgeneau, Z. Hussain, and A. Lanzara, Photoelectron Spin-flipping and Texture Manipulation in a Topological Insulator. Nature Phys. 9, 293 (2013).

C.-H. Park and S.G. Louie. Spin Polarization of Photoelectrons from Topological Insulator. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 097601 (2012).


Scalable Computational Tools for Discovery and Design

Program Leader:  Steven Louie
Co-PI's: Chao Yang, Jeff Neaton, Jack Deslippe, Andrew Canning

This is a multidisciplinary program (partnered with U of Texas, Austin) of physical scientists, applied mathematicians, and computational scientists whose goal is to develop and implement new first-principles methods/theories to predict excited-state phenomena in materials.  Advanced algorithms and many-body theory techniques are employed to compute electron excitations, optical spectra, transport properties, and other excited-state properties/processes.  Methods and algorithm advances are incorporated into the BerkeleyGW package, an open-source code available freely to the community.


J. Lischner, D. Vigil-Fowler, and S. G. Louie. Physical Origin of Satellites in Photoemission of Doped Graphene: An ab initio GW plus Cumulant Study. Physical Review Letters 110, 146801 (2013).


The Materials Project

Program Leader:  Kristin Persson

The Materials Project aims to accelerate materials discovery and education through advanced scientific computing and innovative design methods, scale those computations to cover all known inorganic compounds, and disseminate that information and design tools to the larger materials community. Specifically the Project will achieve this by:

  • Providing unprecedented data and materials design tools as well as comprehensive capabilities for scientists to share their processes and results.
  • Leveraging high-throughput calculations, state-of-the-art electronic structure methods as well as novel data mining algorithms for surface, defect, electronic and finite temperature property predictions for tens of thousands of materials to yield an unparalleled materials design environment.
  • Demonstrating the derived data and infrastructure in the design of novel functional electronic materials: photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, transparent conductors and photocatalytic materials.

Recent Publications

S.Y. Kang, Y.Mo, S.P. Ong, and G. Ceder. Nanoscale stabilization of sodium oxides: implications for Na-O2 batteries. Nano Letters 14(2), 1016-1020 (2014).

A. Jain, S.P. Ong, G. Hautier, W. Chen, W.D. Richards, S. Dacek, S. Cholia, D. Gunter, D. Skinner, G. Ceder, and K.A. Persson. Commentary: The Materials Project: a materials genome approach to accelerating materials innovation. APL Materials 1, 011002 (2013).

K.A. Persson, B. Waldwick, P. Lazic, and G. Ceder. Prediction of solid-aqueous equilibria: scheme to combine first-principles calculations of solids with experimental aqueous states. Phys Rev B 85, 235438 (2012).


Non-equilibrium Magnetic Materials

Program Leader:  Frances Hellman
Co-PIs:  Jeff Bokor, Peter Fischer, Sayeef Salahuddin, Lin-Wang Wang

The program focuses on fundamental science of non-equilibrium magnetic materials and phenomena with emphasis on those enabled by Interfaces and Spin-Orbit-Coupling. It encompasses design, fabrication, measurement, and modeling of static and dynamic magnetic properties of thin film materials exhibiting strong spin-orbit interactions and inversion symmetry breaking due to interfaces, particularly dynamics and thermodynamics of spin accumulation, skyrmions and spin textures. The research addresses three interrelated sub-projects in these materials: i) static and quasi-static novel thin film spin structures such as skyrmions and chiral magnetic textures; ii) strong spin accumulation and consequent control of magnetization created by interfaces between ferromagnet/non-magnet with strong spin-orbit coupling; and iii) highly non-equilibrium magnetic states produced in these heterostructures and studied through electron, optical and x-ray pump/probe techniques at time scales ranging from nsec to fsec. Through strategic choice of materials and utilizing a collective expertise in growth, magnetic, electrical, optical, and thermodynamic characterization, spectromicroscopy, and theoretical modeling, the NEMM team aims to control the strength of the critical underlying, sometimes competing, interactions (spin-orbit, exchange, single ion anisotropy, Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya, Coulomb, disorder) within and between dissimilar materials in proximity to each other, enabling development of models for resulting magnetic states and their dynamics. Theoretical modeling will provide a basis for understanding the structure (atomic, electronic, magnetic) and dynamics (electron and spin transport, magnetization response) of these states, and will guide the exploration of the multidimensional space of new material systems.