The fundamental materials science

Condensed matter and material physics explore the make-up, interactionsand physical properties of solid, crystalline, softand liquid materials and structures. Condensed matter physics has played a key role in technological advances that have dramatically changed our lives. In addition to presenting rich and fascinating questions about the physical world, it is an area of physics with many real-world applications.

Our ability to create new materials and structures—at smaller scales and large quantities—is linked to the advanced understanding of the magnetic, opticaland electronic properties of condensed matter materials. The invention of transistors and semiconductor chips has led to the use of data storage, telecommunicationand multi-media devices. Superconducting magnets are used in MRI tomography for medical diagnosticsand solid-state sensors and detectors are used for space exploration.

Associated schools, institutes & centres


Our research is directed at characterising and understanding the fundamental properties and behaviour of natural and advanced materials to improve sustainability and manufacturing outcomes. Using an array of bulk, atomic, optical, and nuclear techniques, our research has application in a wide range of areas including:

  • magnetic and electronic devices
  • optical signal processing and data storage
  • biomedical physics
  • nanoscale functionality
  • ionising radiation dosimetry and imaging
  • magnetic refrigeration.

Competitive advantage

  • We have access to an extensive suite of in-house facilities available for the preparation, characterisationand investigation of materials over a wide range of temperatures. We also have access to neutron and light scattering facilities at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (OPAL reactor) and the Australian Synchrotron as well asoverseas facilities (Germany, Canada, UK, France). Our research investigations are supported by detailed analytical and related theoretical studies.

Specialist, in-house expertise in low-temperature techniques includes:

  • High-resolution optical spectroscopy exploiting hole burning techniques.
  • Rare earth and iron-based Mössbauer spectroscopy as a probe of local atomic interactions.
  • Combination of bulk and microscopic techniques applied to magnetism.
  • Low temperature transport characterisation of nanoscale electronic devices based on two dimensional materials.
  • X-ray diffraction to low temperatures, complemented by electron microscopy.
  • Magnetic resonance, electronic and nuclear, applied at low temperatures.
  • Strong record and performance in analytical studies in support of experimental investigations.

Successful applications

  • X-ray imaging films based on rare-earth-doped phosphors have been developed based on optical investigations.
  • Earth’s crust modelling relies heavily on knowledge of the oxidation state of iron in mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB). This has now been resolved using x-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy calibrated against standards characterised in our laboratories using 57Fe-Mössbauer spectroscopy.
  • Adsorbate dynamics at graphene interfaces have been mapped with synchrotron radiation thereby influencing research on vertical graphene nano-sheets for fuel cells and filtering.
  • The characterisation of polymer wear particles causing inflammation in knee implants has influenced the medical science of hip joints, disc and shoulder arthroplastyand spinal implants.
    • T. Kobayashi, J. Salfi, C. Chua, J. v der Heijden, M.G. House, D.Culcer,W.D. Hutchison, B.C. Johnson, J.C. McCallum, H. Riemann, N.V.Abrosimov, P. Becker, H-J. Pohl, M.Y. Simmons & S. Rogge,,Nature Materials (2020) [in press].

    • M. Ghafari, X. Mu, J. Bednarcik, W.D. Hutchison, H. Gleiter & S.J. Campbell,,J. Magn. Magn. Mater494(2020) 165819.

    • M. Hendrickx, Y. Tang, E.C. Hunter, P.D. Battle, J.M. Cadogan and J.Hadermann,,J.Solid StateChem. 285 (2020) 121226.

    • N. Riesen, M. Lockrey, K.Badek& H. Riesen,,Nanoscale11 (2019) 4001- 4007.

    • Q. Ren, W.D. Hutchison, J. Wang, A. Studer, G. Wang, H. Zhou, J. Ma & S.J. Campbell,g,Appl. Mater. Interfaces 11 (2019) 17531-17538.

    • R.A. Susilo, X.Rocquefelte, J.M. Cadogan, E.Bruyer, W. Lafargue-Dit-Hauret, W.D. Hutchison, M. Avdeev, D.H. Ryan, T. Namiki and S.J. Campbell,,Phys Rev B 99, 184426-1 to 182446-12 (2019).

    • C. Jansing, H. Wahab,H. Timmers, A. Gaupp & H.C. Mertins,,Journal of Synchrotron Radiation25(2018) 1433.

    • A.J. Berry, G.A. Stewart,H.St,C. O’Neill, G. Mallmann & J.F.W.Mosselmans,,Earth and Planetary Science Letters 483 (2018) 114-123.

    • F.X. Xiang, A. Srinivasan, Z.Z. Du,O.Klochan, S.X. Dou, A.R. Hamilton & X.L. Wang,,Phys. Rev. B98(2018) 035115.

    • Q.Y. Ren,W.D. Hutchison,J.L. Wang, A.J. Studer andS.J. Campbell,,Chemistry of Materials30(2018), 1324-1334

    • J.P. Evans, G.A. Stewart, J.M. Cadogan, W.D. Hutchison, J.E. Downes & E. Mitchell,,Phys. Rev. B 95 (2017) 054431.

    • H. Riesen, A. Rebane, R.P. Rajan, W.D. Hutchison, S. Ganschow, A. Szabo,,Optics Letters 42 (2017) 1871-1874.

    • H. Wahab, R. Haverkamp, J.H. Kim,J.M. Cadogan, H. Mertins, S.H. Choi andH. Timmers,,Carbon110(2016) 414 – 425.

Study with us

Courses in Condensed Matter and Materials Physics are offered at levels 2, 3 and 4 (honours) as components of the Physics major.

Our researchers

 Sean Cadogan
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Research Associate Zhenhua Hao
Research Associate
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Physical Science research lead Wayne Hutchison
Physical Science research lead
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Senior Lecturer Oleh Klochan
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 Hans Riesen
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Associate Professor and Research Team Leader,  Canberra Radiation Safety Officer Heiko Timmers
Associate Professor and Research Team Leader, Canberra Radiation Safety Officer
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