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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C511778/1
Title: Portfolio Partnership on Novel Quantum Order in Interacting Electron Metals
Principal Investigator: Hayden, Professor S
Other Investigators:
MacKenzie, Professor AP Carrington, Professor A Hussey, Professor N
Cooper, Professor J Lonzarich, Professor GG
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Brookhaven National Laboratory Cornell University Curtin University
Industrial Research Ltd Kyoto University Stanford University
Universitat Karlsruhe (TH) University of Birmingham University of Cambridge
University of Tokyo
Department: Physics
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Portfolio Partnerships PreFEC
Starts: 01 October 2004 Ends: 30 September 2009 Value (£): 3,212,191
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Condensed Matter Physics Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This portfolio grant will support collaborative research on the collective properties of electrons in metals carried out in research centres at the Universities of St Andrews, Bristol, and Cambridge.Quantum mechanics plays an important part in the modern world we live in. Modern technological devices such as computers and other electronics depend on quantum effects, that is those not described by Newton's laws of motion, for their operation. The importance of such quantum effects has been recognized by the EPRSC in naming one of its themes the Quantum Realm . In this proposal, we focus on a rather special problem - the collective quantum behaviour of the electrons in solids. Just as the interactions between human beings can produce highly ordered entities such as the many societies on Earth, the interactions between electrons in a solid can produce a huge variety of physical states. These states are not only interesting, they are important as well. They give us a wealth of key technologies from the semiconductors used in watches, televisions, CD players and computers to magnetic materials and superconductors that are now being used in wireless communication and magnetic information storage.The basic interaction between microscopic charged particles in a solid - the electrons and protons - has been well understood since the work of British physicists Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell in the nineteenth century. However, scientists in many disciplines are discovering the importance of an analogy between natural systems and games like chess. We know from chess that understanding its relatively simple rules does not allow amateurs to beat grand masters. To do that, one needs to adopt the appropriate strategies. Even the most powerful computer in the world only just caught up with Gary Kasparov. Natural systems are very similar, in that knowing the rules that govern the interactions of their constituents is NOT the same as understanding the collective behaviour that emerges when large numbers of them interact. In the case of electrons in solids, one of the jobs of condensed matter physicists is to understand how and why simple and unusual collective states are formed. It is as if Nature adopts a strategy that we do not yet properly understand. It is important to realise that no matter how fast and powerful they become, computers are unlikely to give us insight into problems like this. Chess involves only 32 pieces moving on 64 squares, and yet the most powerful computers in the world have only just reached the level of Gary Kasparov. Electron systems in solids have HUGE numbers of constituents, and so are almost unimaginably more complex than chess. However, the simplicity of the way in which they 'self-organise' holds out the prospect of gaining real insight into the appropriate strategies.The specific theme of this proposal is Quantum Order . By this we mean the emergence of collective order that is described primarily by quantum mechanics. One of the most exciting developments of modern condensed-matter physics has been the discovery of new forms of such quantum order. We choose materials whose atomic composition and crystalline structures produce new types of correlation. This approach has led to the observation of a whole range of novel superconducting, magnetic and metallic states in recent years. The best known of these are the high temperature superconductors, but there are a number of other examples. , including quantum critical superconductors, whose discovery has been pioneered by members of the Partnership. These new states are subtle. They can be fragile as well, which means that they can often only be observed in extremely pure crystals. In this partnership we will address the problem of how this so-called quantum order arises and also characterize the novel physical properties which are associated with it. This is vital if we are to profit from the opportunity that interacting electrons give us to gain insight into the more general topic of complexity, which is at the forefront of research in fields as diverse as biology, information technology and cosmology.
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk