Fundamentals of the Physics of Solids: Volume 1: Structure and Dynamics

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Edited by Jagannathan Thirumalai. Edited by Bishnu Pal. Edited by Alexander Kokorin. Edited by Theophanides Theophile. Edited by Kresimir Delac. Register your interest in contributing to this book Collaborate with our community and contribute your knowledge. Register here. About the book This book will be a self-contained collection of scholarly papers targeting an audience of practicing researchers, academics, Ph. Publishing process Book initiated and editor appointed Date completed: September 17th Applications to edit the book are assessed and a suitable editor is selected, at which point the process begins.

Chapter proposals submitted and reviewed Deadline Extended: Open for Submissions Potential authors submit chapter proposals ready for review by the academic editor and our publishing review team. It is remarkable that this universal result is completely independent of all microscopic details of the sample such as the density and types of impurities, the precise value of the magnetic field, etc.

Among the consequences of this extraordinary phenomenon is that it is possible to make a high-precision measurement of the fine-structure constant which expresses the strength of electromagnetic forces and also to realize a highly reproducible standard of electrical resistance. This phenomenon is used in standards laboratories throughout the world to maintain the unit of electrical resistance the ohm.

An even more surprising phenomenon occurs with samples of very high purity at very low temperatures and in very high magnetic fields. Physicists were quite startled by this observation. It turns out to result from the formation of quasiparticles whose effective charge is one-third or various other rational fractions of the electron's charge.


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These quasiparticles are a collective mode of a quantum fluid. The low-energy excitations of this weird fluid consist of vortices bound to a fraction of an electron charge. These objects have been recently observed by direct measurement of their charge and by tunneling experiments in which an electron added to the system breaks up into three excitations, each with one-third of the electron's charge. Nonequilibrium physics is the study of systems that are out of balance with their surroundings.

They may be changing their states as they are heated or cooled, deforming as a result of external stresses, or generating complex or even chaotic patterns in response to forces imposed on them. Examples include water flowing under pressure through a pipe, a solid breaking under stress, or a snowflake forming in the atmosphere.

Understanding nonequilibrium phenomena is of great practical importance in such diverse areas as optimizing manufacturing technologies, designing energy-efficient transportation, processing structural materials, or mitigating the damage caused by earthquakes. At the same time, the theory of nonequilibrium phenomena contains some of the most challenging and fundamental problems in physics. A central theme in this field is that the physics of ordinary materials and processes is a rich source of inspiration for basic research.

Because nonequilibrium physics touches on such a wide range of different areas of science and technology, it is an important channel through which physics makes contact with other disciplines. For example, its concepts help explain. Indeed, the most characteristic property of living systems may be their ability to maintain their extraordinarily complex nonequilibrium states for extended periods of time.

Because of the variety of the different disciplines involved, each with its own culture and approach to research, continued progress in nonequilibrium physics will depend in large measure on the ability of institutions and scientists to bridge the culture gaps that separate their different communities.

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Much progress has been made in the last decade. For example, we now have a detailed understanding of how complex patterns emerge in many apparently simple hydrodynamic, metallurgical, and chemical situations. Pattern-forming systems are intrinsically unstable against small perturbations and often exhibit chaotic motion; it is now possible to understand how this happens in some cases. The extreme sensitivity to small perturbations shown by many of these systems makes it difficult to predict or control their behavior.

This field is very large and only a few topics have been selected in this report to illustrate the major issues. These include pattern formation and turbulence in fluid flow, processing and performance of structural materials, and some topics in solid mechanics, specifically, friction, fracture, granular materials, and polymers and adhesives.

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The chapter on nonequilibrium physics also includes brief discussions of nonequilibrium phenomena in the quantum and biological domains, and yet briefer remarks about nonequilibrium complexity and limits of predictability. To convey some of the flavor of the field, the committee mentions just a few of those topics in the paragraphs that follow. A beautiful example of pattern formation in fluid dynamics is provided by Rayleigh-Benard convection. If a fluid is heated very gently from below, the heat diffuses slowly up through the liquid and is dissipated at the upper surface without any flowing motion of the fluid.

But if the heat is turned up, the fluid starts to convey the thermal energy upward by convection. That is, the lower, hotter layers of fluid begin to rise in plumes to the top. The hot plumes hit the top of the fluid, cool, and then sink back. If the fluid is spread out like gravy in a sauce pan, for example , convection cells may appear and arrange themselves over the surface of the liquid in a regular pattern of squares or hexagons.

This phenomenon is commonly seen in the kitchen. Theoretically, the behavior of such a fluid is completely described by a set of well-known equations named after Navier and Stokes derived directly from Newton's laws of motion. Although there is no reason to believe that the Navier-Stokes equations lose their validity with turbulent flows, solving the equations in the turbulent domain is a much harder theoretical problem.

It is important in many areas of both basic and applied research. Here, too, modern experimental techniques, computer simulations, and new analytic approaches are enabling progress. One classic nonequilibrium problem in materials physics is fracture in solids. How does one characterize a material that is prone to fracture? We usually describe such a solid as brittle, as opposed to ductile; but what does that distinction mean at the microscopic level? What is the role of crystal structure, and how do amorphous or glassy materials differ from crystals in their failure mechanisms?

Linear Expansion of Solids, Volume Contraction of Liquids, Thermal Physics Problems

Some progress in addressing these issues has been achieved through computer simulation and modeling, especially in engineering applications where the primary interest has been in predicting failure criteria. It is much harder, however, to predict what happens after failure begins. How do fractures propagate, and how can propagation be controlled or modified?

Progress in answering these questions would have far-reaching consequences. The science of friction is another example of a classic part of materials research that is becoming amenable to physical understanding on a microscopic basis.

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Friction is related to fracture dynamics because, in many ways, two solid surfaces sliding past each other look like a propagating shear crack. Friction is a rich class of phenomena with a variety of underlying mechanisms.


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  • When two imperfect surfaces slide past each other, friction is produced by the cohesion and decohesion of atomic-scale contact points that are strongly coupled to the deformation modes of the material. Novel techniques, including atomic-scale probe microscopies, are giving new insight into the dynamic details of these processes. Although progress in these areas of long-standing interest is very promising, it is likely that the next major frontier in nonequilibrium physics will be in the area of biological materials and phenomena.

    Optical tweezers and other physics-based probes are enabling molecular-scale observation of biological processes. Forces between cellular membranes can be measured, and the physical mechanisms whereby proteins are formed and transported within a cell can be observed. The cell provides a rich new universe of complex nonequilibrium phenomena for study by physicists. The rewards to society of detailed physical understanding of fundamental life processes could be enormous.

    Volume 1: Structure and Dynamics

    Big molecules have bumpy or sticky places that enable them to assemble themselves into regular or functional arrangements that are extremely sensitive to varied environments and conditions of formation. In artificial preparations these assemblies can form "complex fluids" whose morphology is easily modulated by changing temperature, dilution, or electrical currents. Digital watches and portable computer monitors depend on this modulation in their liquid-crystal displays.

    The structure, and hence the optical properties, of the liquid crystal can be altered by small voltages applied across the fluid. Flashlight batteries now come with liquid-crystal testers that respond to the heat generated by a resistor. An inexpensive fever thermometer can be made from a plastic. Because these liquid crystals are so sensitive, their use consumes very little power. Complex fluids occur in bewildering variety. To describe and control the different liquid phases, theorists are developing new concepts of molecular organization.

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    Journal of Physics C: Solid State Physics, Volume 1, Number 3, June - IOPscience

    With progressively better understanding of the rules of formation, these fluids can be used to construct new kinds of materials with unusual topologies. Extremely light and strong aerogels, used in insulation for example, have a huge surface area trapped in a relatively small volume. Polysaccharides are a class of materials that form complex fluids that are important to industry.

    In this class are the xanthan, guar gums, and carra-geenan essential to modern food preparation and stabilization. Xanthan, used in salad dressing, is so stable and controllable that it can even be used in an oil field to stimulate petroleum recovery.