Condensed Matter Physics

Welcome to the Pierce Physics Laboratory webpages. We are a condensed matter physics research group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Rochester Institute of Technology. We study Nanoscale Materials, Surfaces, Interfaces, Disorder, Spontaneous Ordering, and Magnetism, using a combination of x-ray diffraction, coherent scattering, direct surface microscopy, and traditional surface science techniques. We perform science that, while academic and interesting in its own right, supports things such as cleaner burning reactions, electrocatalysis for fuel cells, CO2 sequestration, magnetic storage media and other technologically important fields.

What is Condensed Matter Physics?

Condensed Matter Physicists study matter and materials from familiar sizes down to the atomic scale. This field is often cross-disciplinary, examining a diverse spectrum of nature with a broad range of investigative techniques. However, at the core, it is the combination of quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, and statistical physics. It strives to explain and predict cooperative phenomena in solids based on fundamental interactions between atoms or molecules. The kinds of physical systems studied range from basic solids and liquids, to more exotic kinds of matter that exhibit superconductivity, atomic spin-spin magnetic interactions, spontaneous ordering, and low dimensional systems. This intellectually interesting branch of physics is also at the heart of modern technology: advances in semiconductors, magnetic storage media, and clean energy technology all depend upon foundations in condensed matter physics.
Students can readily be included in research projects that prepare them for a wide range of future opportunities from graduate school, to industry or national laboratory positions, as well as entrepreneurial pursuits. Typically students will gain hands-on experience with a variety of modern laboratory tools (e.g., x-ray diffraction, microscopy, magnetometry, or UHV spectroscopy) that find broad application in many fields beyond just condensed matter physics. Faculty commonly collaborate with other researchers within RIT (such as the nano-Imaging Scanning Electron Microscopy facilities) as well as colleagues from national laboratories and industry.

Until we make our Wiki pages public, we’ll place a few things below that are useful.

  • SPEC (fourc, psic, etc…) command cheat sheet : a one-page print out of the most common and useful commands for the x-ray software SPEC. As always, if you don’t know what the command does, or the arguments, just type the blank command (or use “prdef ”).
  • Instructions on the x-ray interlock : Here is the step by step guide of the things necessary to get x-rays into the hutch. It doesn’t mean there are not additional things you need for your experiment, but it’s a list of things that you’ll have to do.

Recent Selected Publications

M.S. Pierce, J.E. Davies, J.J. Turner, J.E. Davies, K. Chesnel, E.E. Fullerton, R. Hailstone, S.D. Kevan, J.B. Kortright, K. Liu, J. Nam, L.B. Sorensen, B.R. York, and O. Hellwig. “The influence of structural disorder on magnetic domain formation in perpendicular anisotropy thin films.” Physical Review B 87, 184428 (2013).

Michael S. Pierce, Vladimir Komanicky, Daniel C. Hennessy, Chenhui Zhu, Alec Sandy, and Hoydoo You. ``
Dynamics of the Au (001) surface in electrolytes: In situ coherent x-ray scattering.Physical Review B 86, 085410 (2012).

M.S. Pierce, K.C. Chang, D. Hennessy, V. Komanicky, J. Strzalka, A. Sandy, A. Barbour, and Hoydoo You. ``
Persistent Oscillations of X-ray Speckles: Pt (001) Step Flow." Applied Physics Letters 99, 121910 (2011).

M.S. Pierce, K.C. Chang, D. Hennessy, V. Komanicky, A. Sandy, M. Sprung, and Hoydoo You. ``
Coherent surface diffraction: X-ray speckles from the Au (001) surface monolayer reconstruction." Physical Review Letters, 103, 165501 (2009).