cod. 1006150

Academic year 2016/17
3° year of course - First semester
SOLZI Massimo
Academic discipline
Fisica della materia (FIS/03)
A scelta dello studente
Type of training activity
Student's choice
52 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit
in - - -

Learning objectives

Knowledge and understanding:

The students, at the end of the course, will have achieved an understanding and knowledge of the main physical properties of the solid-state functional materials of practical interest, based on a phenomenological approach. Physical models will be outlined to allow the students to understand the origin of the depicted phenomena. The experimental method provides the basis for that understanding the basis of reproducible experimental data and the use of mathematical methods.

Applying knowledge and understanding:

The students, at the end of the course, will have achieved the ability to apply their knowledge to address the study of a topic in the field of Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science. More specifically: understanding of articles of the most recent literature, ability to orient in considering issues of Materials Physics both theoretical and experimental, develop and support reasoning about the physical properties of functional materials at a basic level. The student will be able to apply the general methodology for the study of solid-state materials, including the synthesis processes, the general features, the physical properties that characterize their functionality and the possible applications.

Learning skills:

Students, at the end of the course, will have to provide evidence that they have started a path of understanding of the main issues in the field of Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science treated in any form of expression (manuals, monographic and reporting); comprehension of the most recent research results and translation into professional actions, that should be considered as self-study, research and design of an experiment.

Ability to communicate:

Students, at the end of the course, will have to demonstrate the ability to communicate ideas-problems-solutions about issues of Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science and present them in a clear, concise and effective way. Communication skills will be practiced in class, involving students in the discussion of the covered topics, and during laboratory exercises. Small groups of students will be encouraged to develop their ability to work in groups, discuss possible problems that may arise during measurements, find solutions and alternative methods which the students will have to learn to share with their colleagues and explain to group members and the teacher. Students are also required at the end of the course to prepare a short presentation about the physical properties of a particular class of materials.

Making judgments:

Students will be encouraged to draw connections not only between different parts of the course but also with the basic concepts acquired in other courses (for example Electromagnetism, Introductory Statistical Physics and Chemistry) for developing a capacity for autonomous judgment based on an enlarged knowledge to the various aspects of the problem under consideration. Students, at the end of the course, will have to demonstrate that they have improved their critical thinking skills and judgment capability in particular to collect and interpret data, elaborate on issues related to the physical properties of functional materials, communicate ideas-problems-solutions in order to develop the learning skills that are necessary to undertake further studies in the field of Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science or carry out professional activities related to it.


Suggested prerequisites: mechanics and thermodynamics, general chemistry, electromagnetism and optics, elements of statistical mechanics.

Course unit content

The first lectures of this course treat the definition and classification of functional materials based on their physical properties and applications, and general arguments such as the structure of solid-state materials, the solidification process, the defects, the diffusion, the phase diagrams and the phase transitions. Moreover, some important concepts are introduced, like as those of nanostructured, smart, composite and multi-functional material. The main physical methods for the synthesis of solid-state materials, both bulk and nano-structured, are also mentioned.
A series of successive lessons is devoted to the deepening of specific physical properties of functional materials, based on the description of the corresponding materials’ classes and of their applications. In particular the mechanical, thermal, (electric) conduction, dielectric, electromagnetic, optical and magnetic properties are treated. Among the possible examples of classes of functional materials discussed in these lectures, one may cite ferroelectrics, piezoelectrics, semiconductors, superconductors, ferromagnets, ferroelastics, photoconductors, photonic materials, spintronic materials and shape-memory alloys.
In the last part of the course, some cases are presented as examples of multi-functional materials with interesting application perspectives, which are currently the subject of research in the field of Physics of Materials. Among the possible examples treated, one can cite the multiferroic and magneto-electric materials, the shape-memory ferromagnets and the magneto-caloric materials.

Full programme

0. Introduction: classification of functional materials based on their physical properties and applications
1. Advanced materials: composites, smart-, multi-functional and nano- materials; functional applications; environmental and geopolitical issues
2. General properties of solid-state materials I: crystal structure, solidification process, imperfections
3. General properties of solid-state materials II: thermally activated processes, diffusion, phase diagrams, phase transitions
4. Preparation methods of bulk materials: metallurgical techniques for metals, alloys and ceramics, crystal growth
5. Nanostructured materials: classification, thin films, nano-wires, nano-particles, thin film deposition and nanoparticles synthesis methods, nano-lithography, self-assembly
6. Mechanical properties: elastic and plastic deformation, fracture; nanostructures, shape-memory materials, ferroelasticity and superelasticity
7. Thermal properties: heat capacity and thermal conductivity of conductors and insulators; nanostructured materials, phononic meta-materials
8. Electrical conduction properties: metals, insulators and semiconductors; short account on band theory, energy gap, intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors, p-n junction, microelectronic devices, nanostructured systems, thermo-electric effects
9. Dielectric properties: permittivity and dielectric resistance, polarization mechanisms, ferroelectricity, piezoelectricity, electrostriction, piroelectricity
10. Electromagnetic properties: propagation of em waves in a conductor and in a dielectric, absorption mechanisms, skin depth, em screens, plasmonics and plasmonic meta-materials;
11. Optical properties: appearance of metals, insulators and semiconductors, photoemission, photoconduction, luminescence, stimulated emission, electro-optics, photonics and photonic meta-materials
12. Magnetic properties: magnetic anisotropy and the magnetization process, soft and hard ferromagnetic materials; magnetostriction, maneto-optics; magnetic nanostructures, magnonics
13. Spintronic materials: normal and giant magneto-resistance, spin-valve and spintronic devices; magneto-electric materials; spin-caloritronics
14. Superconductor properties: classical and high critical temperature superconductors, magnetic properties; applications
15. Examples of multi-functional materials: multiferroics, magnetic shape-memory alloys, magneto-caloric materials


Teacher’s lecture notes

W. Smith, J. Hashemi, Scienza e tecnologia dei materiali, 4ed, McGraw-Hill Education, Milano 2012; ISBN-13: 978-88-386-6765-7

H. Fredriksson and U. Åkerlind, Physics of Functional Materials, J. Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, England 2008; ISBN-13: 978-0-470-51757-4

Teaching methods

Teaching methodology:

Frontal lesson with help of audio-visual multimedia instruments. The slides of the lectures will be available on the course web pages at elly.difest.unipr.it.

Assessment methods and criteria

The acquired knowledge and the understanding of the covered concepts are verified by an oral exam. The oral exam consists of two parts: in the first, the student performs a short presentation on the properties of a particular class of materials at his/her discretion; the second part consist of a discussion of arguments chosen in the whole program of the course.

Other information

Office hours: upon appointment