We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Physics

PHYS4271 Condensed Matter Physics 4 (2018/19)

Details of the module's prerequisites, learning outcomes, assessment and contact hours are given in the official module description in the Faculty Handbook - follow the link above. A detailed description of the module's content is given below, together with book lists and a link to the current library catalogue entries. For an explanation of the library's categorisation system see


Symmetry, Structure and Excitations

Dr M.R.C. Hunt

12 lectures + 6 workshops in Michaelmas Term


Additional: The Oxford Solid State Basics, S.H. Simon (Oxford University Press)
Additional: Structure and Dynamics, M. Dove (Oxford University Press)
Additional: Optical Properties of Solids, M. Fox (Oxford University Press)
Additional: Solid State Physics, G. Burns (Academic Press)
Additional: Soft Condensed Matter, R.A.L. Jones (Oxford University Press)
Additional: Introduction to Solid State Physics, C. Kittel (Wiley)

Syllabus: Overview of energy, length and time scales in different areas of CMP. Comparison of hard CMP and soft CMP. Cohesion in solids. Introduction to symmetry and its influence on physical properties. The symmetry of crystals. Measuring structure using diffraction. Elementary excitations from a ground state: single particles and collective excitations in solids. Phonons in a system with a two atom basis: acoustic and optic branches. Anharmonic effects, soft modes. Measuring excitations using scattering and spectroscopy.

Broken Symmetry

Professor T. Lancaster

12 lectures + 6 workshops in Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms


Additional: Magnetism in Condensed Matter Physics, S.J. Blundell (Oxford University Press)
Additional: Superconductivity, Superfluids and Condensates, J. Annett (Oxford University Press)
Additional: The Oxford Solid State Basics, S.H. Simon (Oxford University Press)
Additional: Soft Condensed Matter, R.A.L. Jones (Oxford University Press)

Syllabus: Symmetry breaking at phase transitions as a method of classifying the phenomena studied in CMP. Phase transitions and critical exponents. Excitations in a broken symmetry system. Generalised rigidity and order. Topological defects. How other systems fit into this framework: superconductors and superfluids; classical examples (binary fluids, polymers, liquid crystals etc.); weak interactions in the standard model, cosmological examples. Other topological objects: vortices, monopoles, skyrmions (in outline). Applications of broken symmetry systems.

Introduction to Soft Matter Physics

Dr K. Voitchovsky

12 lectures + 5 workshops in Epiphany Term


Additional: Soft Condensed Matter, R.A.L. Jones,(Oxford University Press, 2002)
Additional: Soft Matter Physics, M. Doi (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Syllabus: Introduction to soft matter physics and its basic phenomenology. Polymer physics and scaling. Liquid crystals. Free energies. Diffusion (Einstein diffusion coefficients, Peclet number and Fick’s laws). Elasticity of solids.


3 lectures in Easter Term, one by each lecturer.

Teaching Methods

Lectures: 2 one-hour lectures per week.

Workshops: These provide an opportunity to work through and digest the course material by attempting exercises assisted by direct interaction with the workshop leaders. They also provide opportunity for you to obtain further feedback on the self-assessed formative weekly problems. Students will be divided into four groups, each of which will attend one one-hour class every week. The workshops for this module are not compulsory.

Progress test: One compulsory formative progress test (to be completed over the Christmas break)

Problem exercises: See

Dissertation: Students undertake a dissertation in physics of approximately 1500 words in length. The subject matter is to be chosen with the advice of the course lecturers who will provide a list of suitable topics. The aim should be to pick a topic which has a high physics content appropriate for Level 4, which is accessible to the student and can be readily researched, and which can be discussed satisfactorily within the word count limit. The technical level should be advanced, rather than introductory. Students should discuss with the lecturer the qualities expected in the dissertation, but an indication of these is given in the mark proforma used for assessment. The proforma will be made available to students for their information at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. The dissertation is summatively assessed. The marked dissertations along with the completed proformas (giving feedback including the marks awarded for the dissertation) will be returned to students before the end of the Epiphany Term.