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Condensed Matter & Materials Physics

Interface Science

Interface science by its very nature brings together a diverse community with interests in device physics, catalysis, biomembranes, zoxide film growth, semiconductors, geochemistry, surface physics, corrosion, nanoscience, energy storage, and electrochemistry. One of the many grand challenges in this interdisciplinary field is to understand and control the assembly of atoms and molecules at well-defined surfaces in complex environments. In partnership with the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab, faculty members are developing increasingly sophisticated X-ray methods to meet these challenges. In-house methods include high-resolution TEM coupled with surface analytical and computational techniques, three-dimensional atom probe microscopy, an array of electron and scanning probe tools, and laser spectroscopy techniques. 

Faculty: Koray Aydin, Michael Bedzyk, Lin Chen, Vinayak Dravid, Pulak Dutta, Franz Geiger, Sossina Haile, Mark Hersam, Chris Jacobsen, Lincoln Lauhon, Laurence Marks, Tobin Marks, Amanda Petford-Long, Teri Odom, Monica Olvera de la Cruz, James Rondinelli, G. Jeffrey Snyder, Peter Voorhees, Emily Weiss, Christopher Wolverton


Although magnetism goes back to ancient times, it remains anactive field. At Northwestern, researchers focus on several topics, including magnetic-structure calculations that allow quantitative predictions of the properties of both existing and yet-unfabricated materials, nanostructures that display both ferromagnetism and ferroelectricity, and spintronics, which studies combined magnetic and electrical transport properties. Dynamic studies largely focus on magnetic collective modes whose frequencies fall in the microwave regime; such studies will be greatly aided by a new National Science Foundation-funded facility devoted to measuring microwave responses of a variety of structures fabricated by faculty in applied physics.

Faculty: Venkat Chandrasekhar, Vinayak DravidWilliam Halperin, John Ketterson, Pedram Khalili, Amanda Petford-Long, James Rondinelli, Nathaniel Stern.

Mineral Physics

Minerals, naturally occurring crystalline solids, are produced through geological processes or by living organisms. The study of the growth and behavior of natural crystals, and of their interactions with organic molecules, is important for topics ranging from understanding the evolution of the earth and planets to understanding and controlling the ways in which biomolecules guide the growth of bones and shells. Likewise, mineral physics allows us to learn about our environment and investigate processes, such as carbon sequestration, and to use biology-inspired ideas to make hybrid organic–inorganic nanomaterials. These efforts are grounded in solid-state physics and involve chemists, physicists, geologists, and materials scientists.

Faculty: Michael Bedzyk, Pulak Dutta, Franz Geiger, Sossina Haile, Steven Jacobsen, John Ketterson, James Rondinelli, G. Jeffrey Snyder, Christopher Wolverton