Physics 5520 : Solid State Physics II


UPDATED Monday, May 04, 2009.     -----------PLEASE BE SURE TO PRESS THE RELOAD BUTTON! -------------


HW solutions posted. See you Thurs, 3.30 pm for the exam.


Course outline


As you (should) know, condensed matter physics (as it should be more appropriately named – the name was introduced in the 70s by Anderson) is one of the most diverse field of physics, covering everything from mechanics to optics, quantum mechanics to statistical physics to quantum field theory. Condensed matter interfaces with devices and applications on the one side and has most recently come close to merging with biological physics. Every second (or so…) Nobel Prize (in physics/ chemistry/ physiology) is awarded to a condensed matter physicist, so if you call yourself a physicist, you should really know as much as possible about condensed matter physics. I expect most of you have taken 5510 somewhere along the line, but we can adapt the course pace if need be – just let me know. This course is intended to show how much fun physics can be. We will go over the ground work in as much detail as necessary, focusing on concepts rather than on endless derivations, with the aim of bringing you the ability to appreciate some of the most exciting activities at the forefront of physics. I have not fixed the syllabus entirely up front, so will make what we cover dependent on what your interests are. We will discuss this in the first lecture.


General remarks


My goal is for everybody in class to feel confident to ask a question in a condensed matter colloquium in future. I expect that, depending on your interest and motivation, the course will take up roughly 6 hours/week, 3 hours lecture, 1 hour reading/discussion amongst yourselves or with the TA, 2 hours homework (in this order!).


We’re pretty flexible in terms of course content. On the one hand I’d like to cover as many different things as possible, on the other hand, of course, it has got to be fun for everyone and I really want to make sure you’ve got the core concepts. I expect to be interrupted if you feel you’ve not understood something. Please do not leave it to the final exam to find out that you’ve not understood what an acoustic phonon is!


I would be surprised if you can do OK in the exams and homeworks if you cannot make it to class, so please let me know if there is any problem with you attending.


Recommended text


Everybody should really have a copy of Kittel to refer to. Ashcroft Mermin is the other standard book, but you do not need to rush out and buy it. Other books I can recommend include:


Klingshirn, Semiconductor optics

Parker, Physics of optoelectronics (a bit on the technical side)

Marder, Condensed matter physics

Chaikin and Lubensky, Principles of condensed matter physics

Atkins, Molecular quantum mechanics

Haken and Wolf, Molecular physics

Schwoerer and Wolf, Organic molecular solids

Rosencher and Vinter, Optoelectronics (this has a really good introductory overview of semiconductor optics)

Tanner, Electrons in solids (a manageable size)

Singh, Electronic and optoelectronic properties of semiconductor structures


You may also want to refer to your favourite modern physics textbook now and again.

Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia. However, it’s a very handy resource which I recommend you consult frequently.


You are welcome to come by my office and take a look at the books.



Current reading (Apr 26): Kittel 14-15




Problem sheets and handouts


I have two handouts to start with: one on your prior knowledge, the other on your interests.


I will provide handouts of any overhead slides I use, as well as of the lecture notes (please bear with me, they’re not quite complete yet).


The problems are designed to get you thinking about the material you’ve heard about in the lectures (and should encourage you to read along/ahead a little, too!). Depending on your background, there will be some repetition from 5510 in the homeworks, just to make sure the material has sunk in. I will go over some of the homeworks in class. Su Liu will be our TA this semester, so please make use of this resource. Also, some of the students who took the class last year may be able to help you along – ask me for names.


Sheet 1 - Solution

Sheet 2 - Solution

Sheet 3 - Solution

Sheet 4 - Solution

Sheet 5 - Solution

Sheet 6 - Solution









You can have some say in which topics we cover.


I intend to begin with a 5510 review, moving on to magnetism, superconductivity, semiconductor band structures, electronic structure theory, tight-binding models for the first half of the course.


Increasingly less preliminary course content and schedule:





Suggested reading


Review of 5510




Review of 5510




Introduction to crystal structures

Homework 1 out

Kittel, Chapter 1


This meeting will be postponed – I will make up the class by adding 20-30 minutes to the next few lectures.




X-ray diffraction


Kittel, Chapter 2


Phonons: scattering

HW1 due, HW2 out

Kittel, Chapter 4


Phonon scattering


Kittel, Chapter 4


Phonon polaritons


Kittel, Chapter 10


Polaritons / electrons in solids

HW2 due, HW3 out

Kittel, Chapter 10, 6


Fermi surface of metals


Kittel, Chapter 6


Properties of Fermi surface


Kittel, Chapter 9


Discussion class

Decide on essay topics



Band structure/effective masses/ Fermi surface

HW3 due, HW4 out

Kittel, Chapter 9


Electronic structure / H2 molecule


Ashcroft, Chapter 17


Electronic structure / Hartree Fock / SCF



Ashcroft, Chapter 17, and a molecular quantum mechanics book, e.g. Atkins or Haken/Wolf.


Electronic structure / Hückel

Essay due 

Atkins is your best bet






Photonic crystals /Semiconductors


If you want more indepth info, turn to the Joannopoulos book.




Take a look at the Singh book – come to my office


Heterostructure/Quantum structures


This is based on the book by J. Singh.


Optical properties of semiconductors/quantum heterostructures


Ashcroft, Chapter 28 may also help


Semiconductors / excitons


Ashcroft, Chapter 30 ; also feel free to take a look at my Schwoerer/Wolf book



HW 5 out





Kittel 11


Adiabatic demagnetization


Kittel 14


Ferromagnetism / mean field theory / spin waves

HW 5 due, HW 6 out

(due: 5/4, 3 pm, give to Su Liu)

Kittel 14


Ferromagnetic domains / exchange interactions


Kittel 15

Let’s see how far we get…

Spin resonance / Bloch equations


Kittel 15




Kittel 16




Kittel 12




Important dates


Friday, February 20 – Let me know your essay topic

Wednesday, March 11 – Essay due

Friday, March 13 – Midterm exam (50 minutes)

Thursday, May 7, 3:30 pm – Final exam (2 hours)




Some (helpful?) links



You may like to try this Hyperphysics website


The MIT open course ware website is pretty good (Fall/Spring).


Information on diamagnetism and levitation (with some fun movies).


Forgotten the periodic table?



Office hours


  • Monday and Thursday, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, JFB 307. I will usually announce if I have to be out of town and can’t make the office hours – generally, if I am not too busy, you are welcome to come round any time.


TA: office hours Tuesdays 12:00 – 1:00 pm (in the library), and at your discretion! Please make use of this fantastic resource!


These office hours are only suggestions! Let us know if there are any scheduling conflicts.




There will be 7 sets of homework, typically consisting of 2-3 problems. There may be the odd extra problem (i.e. extra points) labeled by an asterisk. You will probably find it helpful to chat to the TA now and again. If you can’t make it to class, make sure your solutions are in Su’s letter box by 3 pm.




There will be one midterm exam and one final exam. We will decide in class whether you’re allowed to take a piece of paper with you for reference or not. 


There will be no resit exams – please make sure you make it to the exams. Let me know of any scheduling conflicts immediately!




The most important skill you can acquire as a graduate student is the ability to assimilate and disseminate information efficiently. I have reduced the homework load so that you can prepare a 2-3 (max!, preferably 2) page essay (~1000 words, plus diagrams, equations, whatever) on a solid state physics topic of your choice. Your essay should provide an introduction/background, a bit of a historical perspective, a comment on implications and applications, and must, most importantly, highlight the fundamental physics of whatever you are describing. You should aim at not spending more than six hours on this exercise. You will not get any credit for flashy cartoons/pictures, but for a convincing, compelling and concise written presentation (i.e. don’t beat about the bush). I can give you some examples of the kind of stuff we’re looking for.


Handy resources: Nature, Science, Physics Today, New Scientist (within reason), Scientific American, Physics World, Web of Science (


You will also have the opportunity to present your essay in a talk (10 minutes+5 minutes discussion). You will get extra points for this (counting towards an extra 5 % of your grade).


The essay is due on Mar. 11th.


Please let me know by Feb. 20th which topic you want to work on (it obviously does not have to be from the list below, but I would rather approve it). I can point you in the direction of some suitable articles if you come and see me.


Examples of possible topics include:


Giant magnetoresistance, fractional quantum hall effect, microfluidics, surface acoustic waves, solid state laser cooling, graphene, negative refraction, molecular magnetism, photomagnetism, spin hall effect, Brownian ratchets, heat transport in carbon nanotubes, quantum cascade lasers, photorefractive effect, molecular photoswitches, neutron scattering, liquid crystals, thermoelectric effect, molecular selfassembly, Kondo effect, spin glasses, Bose-Einstein condensation of excitons, Mössbauer spectroscopy, quasi crystals, optical lattices in BE condensates – tunable “Hubbard” labs.


Evaluation of essays


I will go through the main points in class. Big “no-no”s include lifting other peoples’ words verbatim, and inappropriate or insufficient referencing. A few ideas to guide you along:


* Use Word, or at least try out the Tex spell checker – typos are entirely avoidable, but such things may cost you a successful job application one day!

* Read your work out ALOUD to yourself (or someone else). You will immediately spot funny sentences and repetitions. Unless you’re Steinbeck, every sentence has a verb (preferably a full verb – this sentence only has auxiliary verbs). Make sure you know where your verbs are! Don’t double up words, and make yourself sensitive to bootstrapping arguments (usually a risk in long sentences).

* Avoid using first person singular, unless you’re the Pope or the Queen. Incidentally, the Queen tends to use third person singular (“one is not amused”). Some people and journals react very sensitively to this.

* Make sure you explain figures. At the very least put in a figure caption. Linking the text to the figure by a hand waving “(fig. 1)” may make things easier for you, but it will make it harder for the reader.

* Usually you want something from the reader, i.e. you are not providing something in writing out of pure charity. You cannot make it too comfortable for the reader. The more comfortable you make it, the more likely the reader will take you seriously.


A few previous students have very kindly agreed to let me post their essays.


I also really recommend you take a quick look at this pamphlet, a brief set of instructions on writing from George Whiteside’s group.



Grading Scheme

  • midterm (15 %), final (30 %), homeworks (40 %), essay (15 %) + presentation in class (extra 5 %)

I will also take your participation in class into account, i.e. if you are just at the boundary between grades, active participation may help to push you up!


The (very) preliminary grading scheme is A-: 80 %, B-: 60 %, C-: 40 % of available points.



Favourite past user comments


I think it would really be better to print them (the notes) into your own book and make the students buy the typed up version” – can I have an advance payment?


If the lectures […] (don’t) prepare us for success on the exam, then what are we doing all that work for???” – shouldering giants? (nanos gigantum humeris insidentes).




Academic Integrity


The policy on academic integrity (Student Behavior Code) can be found on the University web site at The student is responsible for reading and understanding this policy. The Student Behavior Code will be strictly followed in this class.


Students with Disabilities


The University of Utah Department of Physics seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in this course, reasonable prior notice must be given to the instructor and to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Bldg, 581-5020 (V/TDD) ( to make arrangements for accommodations. You are strongly encouraged to come and talk to the instructor about your disability and necessary accommodations within the first two weeks of the semester.


If you have any concerns or whatever DO NOT wait until AFTER the exam to inform me.