Condensed Matter Physics, Spectroscopy, Nanotechnology

Condensed Matter Physics

Research, Field Stations and International Collaborations

The condensed matter group is interested in the properties of materials from millimetre size right down to the scale where quantum behaviour of the atoms becomes important. At these small dimensions, on the scale of nanometres, materials take on new physical properties and thus present the opportunity for new science and applications. This is the field of Nanotechnology.

Our group has several primary directions in the field of nanotechnology. We have developed techniques where extremely small clusters of metal or semiconductor atoms can be produced and arranged to form conducting wires with sizes much smaller than are possible by conventional means. This technology was behind New Zealand’s first nanotechnology spin-off company, Nano-Cluster Devices. Our current focus is on novel switching behaviour (which might be useful in new memory devices) in these devices, and on fundamental issues related to superconductivity in these nanoscale systems.

Our group also has an active programme in the growth and characterisation of new semiconductor thin films. In particular we have a suite of optical spectroscopy facilities that allow photoluminescence, photoconductivity and Raman spectroscopy studies of many types of material, over a broad range of wavelengths. This work attempts to enlarge the range of materials that have applications in our high-tech opto-electronic industries.
The academic staff of the group are Principal Investigators in the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. Through this Institute, the researchers have access to very sophisticated characterisation facilities for their work.


The optical, electronic and vibrational properties of defect ionic materials are studied through many forms of spectroscopy in order to provide an understanding of these materials at a fundamental level.

The studies include the investigation of energy transfer in materials and in optical-memory effects.

Infrared spectroscopy is being used to characterise doped fluoride glasses as this information is important in the development of superionic conductors and active optic fibres.


The principal method of investigation is spectroscopy and experimental facilities in the Department include:

  • spectrometers covering the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions from 40,000 to 10 cm-1;
  • an argon ion laser with 30 watt visible or 7 watt UV lasing capability;
  • a 5 watt argon ion laser;
  • a krypton ion laser;
  • tunable dye lasers;
  • a Ti-sapphire tunable infrared laser with frequency doubling crystal;
  • a pulsed nitrogen/dye laser;
  • a Raman spectrometer;
  • liquid helium and associated cryogenic facilities, including superconducting magnets; sensitive infrared detectors operating at 0.4 K.
  • The preparation and growth of single crystals are centered around a 30 k W R.F. furnace.

Nanotechnology - physics of low-dimensional structures, atomic cluster devices, cluster deposition.

Laser spectroscopy of the solid state, particularly the characterization of materials that have applications in lasers and nonlinear optics. Techniques used include four-wave-mixing, spectral holeburning and site-selection spectroscopy.


Research Associates

Growth of single crystals. The glassy state. Infrared spectroscopy, low temperature physics, magnetic field spectroscopy. Physics in archaeology and art, teaching, communicating science to the public. Rutherford.

  • Dr Glynn D Jones

Infrared and Zeeman infrared spectroscopy of rare-earth ions in crystals. Rare-earth site spectroscopy. Crystal-field and electron-phonon interaction effects.

  • Assoc. Prof. Rod W G Syme

Raman and laser excitation spectroscopy of crystalline materials.

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