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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/G003610/1
Title: Thermoelectric effects in strongly correlated electron systems
Principal Investigator: Nam, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Oxford Physics
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Career Acceleration Fellowship
Starts: 02 March 2009 Ends: 01 September 2017 Value (£): 701,126
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Condensed Matter Physics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
26 Jun 2008 Fellowship Allocation Panel Meeting Announced
12 Jun 2008 Fellowships 2008 Interviews - Panel C Deferred
Summary on Grant Application Form
Many of the properties of common metals such as copper can successfully be explained by considering a large number of charged particles (the electrons) moving around within the metal independently, as if they do not see or interact with one another. However, this simple approach fails when we try to explain more interesting phenomena such as magnetism and superconductivity. Indeed, in some of the most interesting materials that physicists study today, the properties appear to be dominated by the effects of the electrons interacting with each other. The phenomena that result, which include, for example, high temperature superconductivity in the cuprates and an enormous sensitivity of the electrical resistance to magnetic fields in the so-called colossal magnetoresistance manganite materials, will be exploited for a range of technological applications by future generations of functional materials. However, many of these useful effects are still poorly understood by physicists, who are always looking for new and better ways to examine and understand how interesting materials work.One useful experimental approach in this context is to study what happens when we create a temperature imbalance in a material. If the material contains mobile charge carriers (like electrons), these carriers can contribute to the conduction of heat from the warm regions to the cool regions. The fact that the particles carrying the heat also carry charge causes the appearance of a voltage between the warm and cool regions. This effect, and related effects that occur when a magnetic field is also present, are collectively known as thermoelectric effects, and they are uniquely sensitive to the nature of the interactions between electrons.In recent years, a very few research groups world wide have used thermoelectric effects to study interesting functional materials. These studies have been very successful, and they have generated many reports in high-profile research journals like Science and Nature. However, the activities have been limited to a small number of research groups for one simple reason: the experiments are technically very difficult to set up and perform.In my recent work in Oxford, I have set up the apparatus to study thermoelectric effects in interesting functional materials, and during the course of this project I will build the UK's only research activity of this kind, and one of the very few world wide. My work will initially focus on what I consider to be one of the most pressing questions in superconductivity. Some materials cannot decide whether to become insulators or superconductors when cooled. This apparent indecision arises because of the conflicting urges for electrons to pair up (and form superconductivity) and to repel (because they are like charges ). Materials which plump for superconductivity, but only just, exhibit extraordinary behaviour: they seem to demonstrate a premonition of superconductivity appearing at temperatures well above that at which they lose their electrical resistance. This premonition , or fluctuating superconductivity, is a general consequence of the conflict between pairing and repulsion and ought to appear in very many exotic and potentially useful superconductors (including the cuprates). As I have recently shown, thermoelectric experiments offer one of the most powerful approaches to understanding the origin of this extraordinary phenomenon.Another of my strategic aims for my Fellowship is to develop collaborations in the UK and around the world with other groups who are interested in the physics of complex and functional materials, and offer my expertise in thermoelectric effects to help shed new light on interesting problems. I believe that this dual-track approach will maximise the benefit to UK science while giving me the opportunity to establish a world-leading research activity in Oxford.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk