Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Materials Physics
Academic Year
Semester 2
Reading List
External Examiners
  • Professor Pete Vukusic (Professor - Exeter University)
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Examination  70%
Semester Assessment Problem Sheets  20%
Semester Assessment Blackboard quizzes  10%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Identify and classify phase transitions in a variety of physical contexts.
2. Demonstrate familiarity with the physics and materials science of Soft Matter systems (e.g. polymers).
3. Summarise the key underlying physics of Superconductivity; to include the Meissner effect, type I and II superconductivity, and macroscopic quantum coherence according to Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory.
4. Demonstrate familiarity with the concepts of the Landau theory of phase transitions.
5. Identify appropriate order parameters to describe phase transitions and suggest experimental techniques to track phase transitions.
6. Describe and explain the distinctive properties of nanoscale materials and nanoparticles.

Brief description

This module builds on the fundamental condensed matter physics developed in PH32410 and exposes students to some advanced topics and current research. Topics include soft matter, superfluidity, superconductivity, nanomaterials and phase transitions. Technological applications of functional materials such as organic electronics, thin-film photovoltaics, switchable devices and superconducting magnets are introduced alongside the physics supporting them.


Soft matter:
- Rheological overview of “Soft Matter”
- Introduction to polymers; physical, mechanical, chemical and electronic properties
- Thermodynamics and phase transitions in polymers
- Polymer-blend systems and phase separation
- Dynamic models of polymers (e.g. reptation)
- Soft matter physics in biology

- Superconducting materials
- The Meissner-Ochsenfeld effect
- The London equation
- Macroscopic quantum coherence
- Cooper pair
- The BCS wave function
- BCS theory and quasiparticle states, incl. applications

Phase transitions:
- Order of phase transitions
- Order parameters and symmetry
- Introduction to Landau theory
- Tracking phase transitions experimentally

- Low dimensionality and quantum confinement in solids/metals/semiconductors
- Nanoparticles and nano-synthesis
- Surfaces/interfaces at the nanoscale
- Nano-magnetism
- Nano-photonics


This module is at CQFW Level 6