Condensed Matter and Materials Physics

Condensed matter physics is the study of the properties and physics of solid, crystalline, soft, and liquid materials and structures, which form the basis of electronic and optical technologies, and biological systems. As the largest field within physics, it includes a wide range of sub-fields such as quantum information, nanoscience, photonics, biophysics, and is often interdisciplinary in nature. Our theorists and experimentalists explore topics such as quantum sensing and information processing; quantum coherent dynamics of spins; spin phenomena in nanostructures; mid-infrared photonics; photonic engineering with metamaterials, plasmonics, and cavities; electronic bandstructure engineering and carrier dynamics in semiconductor superlattices, nanowires, and heterostructures; magnetic field effects in organic materials; optoelectronic bio- and chemical-sensors; and lasers in medicine.

STM image of InAs/GaSb superlattice

STM image of InAs/GaSb superlattice showing individual atoms


InAs nanowires

Our experimentalists use both their own labs, which include tools for electronic, optical, and magnetic characterization of materials, and central user facilities in the Iowa Advanced Technology Building as part of the highly interdisciplinary Iowa Center for Research, Exploration, Advanced Technology in Engineering and Science (Iowa CREATES). These user facilities include the MATfab, which has tools for micro- and nano-fabrication of materials, as well as imaging; and the Molecular Beam Epitaxy Facility for epitaxial growth of semiconductor heterostructures. Theoretical calculations and simulations make use of University of Iowa’s High Performance Computing resources.

dipole emission

Dipole emission pattern near metallic surface

We offer a special graduate sequence taught over a two-year cycle: Semiconductor Physics, Advanced Optics, Advanced Condensed Matter, and Thin Film Materials. In addition, for those needing an introduction to this area, our department offers Introduction Solid State Physics, and Introduction to Optics, which are mixed undergrad / grad classes. There is a particularly wide job market for students trained in this area, with excellent opportunities in industry, government labs, and academia. Our strong research collaboration with industrial partners aids students in finding jobs.

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Thomas F. Boggess

Nonlinear optics; ultrafast spectroscopy of semiconductor heterostructures.

  • Ultrafast nonlinear optical techniques used to study semiconductor nanostructures
  • Topics of interest include carrier energy and spin relaxation, recombination, and transport
  • Facilities include ultrafast lasers, cryogenic capabilities, photon-counting equipment, and magneto-optical instrumentation located in 2000 sq ft of laboratory space
Michael E. Flatté

Condensed-matter theory; materials theory.

  • Coherent properties of spin systems in the solid state
  • Carrier dynamics in semiconductor optoelectronic materials and devices
  • Member of National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center "Center for Emergent Materials" at Ohio State University
  • Students also interact with other group members, including postdocs and other students, and with members of experimental groups at Iowa, as well as many other institutions worldwide
  • Students develop skills including analytical and numerical techniques and programming C++
  • Placement opportunities for graduate students include industry and national lab partners in our research
John A. Goree

Experimental plasma physics; statistical physics; soft condensed matter physics.

  • Dusty plasma, strongly-coupled plasma, optical diagnostics of plasmas, waves
  • Physics problems are interdisciplinary, combining condensed matter, statistical physics, and plasma physics; experiments involve direct comparisons to theory
  • Experiments are performed in our labs. Data from experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) are also analyzed
  • Two labs with plasma chambers and optical diagnostics
  • Students also interact with group members including a research scientist; other faculty and research scientists; collaborators in other countries
  • Students develop skills including design, construction, and operation of: vacuum, electronic, optical, and laser systems; programming in various languages; image analysis
John P. Prineas

Experimental semiconductor physics; growth and fabrication; spectroscopy; microscopy; semiconductor nanostructures; optoelectronics and photonics; III-V MBE growth; nonlinear optics.

  • Research and development of antimonide III-V compound semiconductor materials, including Ga(Al)InAsSb bulk alloys and quantum wells, InAs/Ga(In)Sb superlattices, and core-shell nanowires
  • Facilities include a molecular beam epitaxy lab equipped to grow III-V semiconductors, and an optical spectroscopy lab; regular use of user facilities: Microfabrication Laboratory and the Central Microscopy Research Facility
  • Placement opportunities include industry, government labs, and academia
Craig Pryor

Theoretical condensed matter

  • Electronic, optical, and spin-related properties of semiconductor nanostructures
  • Computational materials physics
  • Applications to nanoelectronic and optoelectronic devices, quantum computation, and THz sources
  • Students develop skills in numerical methods and programming C++ and python
Markus Wohlgenannt

Experimental polymer physics.

  • Magnetotransport and spin-dependent effects in organic semiconductors
  • Organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells
  • Thin film solar cells based on hybrid perovskites
  • Light absorption, reflection and emission, continuous wave photo-induced (nonlinear) absorption
  • Facilities include a spectroscopy facility using a cw laser; glove-box and clean-room for fabrication or organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells, magnetoresistance measurement setup.