cod. 1006150

Academic year 2015/16
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

The purpose of these lectures is to provide students with an overview of the main physical properties of solid-state functional materials of practical interest, on the basis of a phenomenological approach. For functional materials one means materials classified according to the function they can perform, rather than to their origin, the nature of the chemical bond or the preparation procedure. This schematization is therefore substantially different from the traditional approach that distinguishes materials among metals, alloys, ceramics, glasses, etc.. The functional materials show properties that can be sensitively controlled by variations in external parameters (temperature, stress, electric fields, magnetic fields, radiation, ...) and that can be technologically exploited. In particular, current research has focused on materials which show a strong coupling between different degrees of freedom, for example, structural, electrical, magnetic, optical, ... , so as to present characteristics of multi-functionality. The applications of functional materials ranging from electronics to the field of sensors and actuators, to the conversion of energy in its various kinds, to the storage of data and energy.


Suggested prerequisites: Physics 1 (mechanics and thermodynamics), Chemistry, Physics 2 (electromagnetism and optics), Analytical Mechanics and Statistics and Physics 3 (transition from classical physics to quantum 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 multimedial instruments. The slides of the lectures will be available on the didattica.unipr.it course web pages.

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