The research activities in the Department fall into five main sections:
In addition, members of the Department play leading roles in the following research institutes and centres:
Section web pages: http://www.cfai.dur.ac.uk/
Section Head: Professor RM Sharples
State-of-the-art instruments for optical and near-infrared telescopes are designed and constructed in collaboration with observatories world wide, including the new 8-m Gemini Telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, as well as the William Herschel Telescope (La Palma), Anglo-Australian Telescope (Australia) and the UK Infrared Telescope (Hawaii). In 2004 the group expanded to include new facilities at the NetPark Research Institute (Sedgefield) along with the existing facilities in Durham City.
- Advanced Instrumentation
- Adaptive Optics
Seeks to overcome the degrading effects upon image quality of some intervening medium, the optical characteristics of which are evolving rapidly with time. In the case of ground-based astronomy these degrading effects stem principally, but not exclusively, from atmospheric turbulence.
- Astronomical Spectroscopy
The spectroscopy programme carries out research and development in astronomical spectroscopy and builds state-of-the-art facility-class spectrographs for major observatories. It has close symbiotic links with the Durham extragalactic astronomy and cosmology group and with the adaptive optics programme.
- Adaptive Optics
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Section web pages: http://astro.dur.ac.uk/
Section Head: Professor Ian Smail
The Astronomy research in Durham is an internationally leading activity. We undertake research in the following fields:
- Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology
Observational studies of the formation and evolution of galaxies, black holes and active galactic nuclei, the evolution of larger-scale structures in the universe and tests of cosmological theories. The observational programme makes extensive use of a wide range of facilities including the largest optical, infra-red and submillimetre telescopes, radio arrays and space-based observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory and the Chandra and XMM- Newton X-ray satellites. We have close links to the activities in both the Institute for Computational Cosmology and the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation.
- Institute for Computational Cosmology
The theoretical programme based within the Institute is focussed on numerical studies of galaxy formation, large- structure and the nature of the cosmic dark matter. To support this programme the Institute operates a wide-range of high-performance supercomputer facilities.
High Energy Astrophysics
The high-energy research involves gamma ray, X-ray, and cosmic ray astronomy. The gamma-ray group is actively participating in the development of the next generation of ground-based gamma ray observatories: gamma rays (>300 GeV) are studied using the atmospheric Cerenkov radiation technique. The X-ray astronomy group study the emission from accreting black holes, both the stellar mass black holes found in nearby galaxies and the super-massive black holes that are found in all massive galaxies in the Universe. The cosmic ray group study the origin of high energy cosmic rays and their propagation through the Galaxy and in intergalactic space. The group has important collaborations with eastern European institutes.
Durham also hosts active researchers working in a further two areas:
- Applied Historical Astronomy
Ancient records from China, Japan, Korea, Babylon, and Arabia, as well as European medieval sources, are studied. They provide long baseline data for phenomena such as the Earth's rotation, the Solar cycle, comets, novae and supernovae.
- Molecular Astrophysics
Research in Molecular Astrophysics focuses on the theoretical calculations of molecular transistions for a wide variety of molecules commonly seen in the interstellar medium. These transistion strengths are used to interpret observations of interstellar clouds and shocks in interstellar gas.
Atomic and Molecular Physics
Section web pages: http://www.jqc.org.uk/ and http://massey.dur.ac.uk
Section Head: Professor C. S. Adams
The Durham Atomic and Molecular Physics Group (AtMol) is a partner in the Joint Quantum Centre (JQC) Durham-Newcastle, broadly dedicated to varied aspects of quantum science. The JQC was founded in 2012, and is composed of members from Durham Physics and Chemistry, and Newcastle Applied Mathematics and Mechanical and Systems Engineering.
AtMol research covers a range of experimental and theoretical topics, with a particular strength in the experimental and theoretical study of atom-light interactions, ultracold molecules, trapped atomic and molecular gases and Bose-Einstein condensates.
Active experimental projects currently include:
- Rydberg polaritons and non-linear optics
- Bright matter-wave solitons
- Ultracold Strontium Rydberg Physics
- Slowlight in atomic vapours
- Creation of ultracold polar molecules
- Creation of cold beams of charged particles
- Two species mixture of quantum degenerate Bose gases
- Electromagnetically induced transparency -Ultracold polar molecules
Theoretical topics currently studied include:
- Theory of atomic Bose-Einstein condensates
- Quantum chaos in atomic systems
- Atoms and ions in intense laser pulses
- Atomic and molecular processes in the interstellar medium
- Theory of interacting Rydberg gases
Condensed Matter Physics
Section web pages: http://www.dur.ac.uk/cmp/
Section Head: Professor Damian Hampshire
Applications for Ph.D. or MSc degrees in the area of 'Condensed Matter Physics' or 'Materials Physics' are made through staff in the Centre for Materials Physics - which assumes primary responsibility for the teaching, training and research undertaken by Ph.D. students. Many of the staff in the Centre are also members of other research centres and institutes throughout the University and as a result are able to offer interdisciplinary Ph.D. research projects. If you are interested in studying for a Ph.D. in Physics where the core material is Materials Physics or Condensed Matter Physics then please look at the booklet for prospective students (and the handbook for students who are about to start in Durham) at:
Materials Physics encompasses a huge range of science from technological advances such as the silicon chip and liquid crystal displays to fundamental understanding of phenomena such as superconductivity, advanced many-body quantum-mechanics and elementary spin-charge interactions. Durham University has world-class researchers working across Materials Physics collaborating with the best groups around the world.
We employ a wide variety of different experimental methods including optical, magnetic, electrical, microscopy, magnetic resonance and X-ray scattering measurements. Theoretical work, often in close collaboration with experiment, is a vital aspect of condensed matter physics and in Durham, studies include multi-scale computational modelling and theory from the level of the electrons to photonic microstructures. Experiments and computational simulations are supported by state of the art equipment based in the Department and elsewhere in the University, including femtosecond lasers, scanning probe microscopes, electron microscopes, SQUID (Superconducting QUantum Interference Device) magnetometers, a range of cryostats (300 mK to 1000 K), horizontal and vertical magnets (up to 17 T) and a supercomputer cluster. Extensive use is made of international facilities including synchrotron radiation, neutron and muon sources, high field magnets and supercomputers.
Elementary Particle Theory
Section Head: Professor EWN Glover
Research is carried out in the Centre for Particle Theory, which is a collaborative research centre of the Departments of Physics and Mathematical Sciences. The Centre is the largest particle theory group in the United Kingdom and is host to the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology. Our research is wide-ranging and covers most of modern theoretical physics. Activity in the Physics Department is largely, but not exclusively, in the areas of phenomenology and non-perturbative quantum field theory.
Phenomenology is the study of particle physics at energy scales probed by present-day or near future experiments. Our research spans the theory of the entire breadth of the experimental particle physics program and addresses fundamental issues such as the Origin of Mass and the Higgs Boson as well as the Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry of the Universe.
- Non-perturbative Field Theory
It is well-known that many interesting phenomena in quantum field theory are non-perturbative in nature, i.e. cannot be understood in perturbation theory. The last few years have seen a quantum leap in our understanding of strongly-coupled supersymmetric gauge theories through direct analytic non-perturbative calculations. This has led to the discovery of remarkable new relationships between seemingly different theories, known as dualities. Our research examines these dualities via a semi-classical multi-instanton approach.
Other important areas of research carried out in the Centre for Particle Theory include:
- String Theory and Gravity
String theories are quantum theories where the fundamental object is a one dimensional string. They offer a consistent, unified and finite quantum description of the gauge forces and gravity. Our research involves perturbative and non-perturbative aspects of string theory, especially recent developments involving branes. We also study aspects of early-universe cosmology, which describes the universe as a whole.
- Topological Solitons and Nonlinear Dynamics
Solitons are stable non-singular finite-energy solutions, which appear in a variety of non-linear systems, both classical and quantum. Their stability is often assured by a conserved topological charge. We study models which possess such solitonic solutions, for example models with monopoles, hopfions, skyrmions etc. Solitons and related topological objects are often involved in our other areas of research as well.
The Centre for Particle Theory is also the home of the Durham HEP Database Project. This PPARC-funded project compiles comprehensive numerical data from all types of Particle Physics scattering experiments and makes them available to the worldwide community via the Reaction Data Database. In addition the database group also hosts the UK mirror sites of the SLAC/SPIRES HEP bibliographic database and the LBL Particle Properties web site.
Click on the research group name to see the group profile.