NFYK15007U  Condensed Matter Experiments

Volume 2016/2017

MSc Programme in Physics


This course provides an introduction to selected techniques used in experimental condensed matter physics. The intention is to prepare the student for graduate level course work and experimental research in the fields of low-temperature solid state physics, semiconducting quantum devices, neutron scattering and X-ray diffraction. The students will learn key concepts that are essential in these fields and, more generally, have advanced our understanding of materials anywhere from quantum engineering over advanced functional materials to biophysics and chemistry.


Topics: Operating principles of a modern cryostat, cooling methods, heat transfer at cryogenic temperatures, and the physics of thermometry. Basic concepts of current flow at low temperatures, and resistance of metals and semiconductors. Brief introduction to the fabrication of crystals, heterostructures, and nanostructures. Methods of measuring accurately electrical and magnetic properties of a sample, including conductance and noise. Introduction to scattering methods, using light, X-ray and neutron beams. Concepts of interaction between matter and radiation, and its description by scattering functions. Introduction to methods of small angle scattering, diffraction and spectroscopy.


The course will be a combination of lectures, exercises, discussions of new experimental breakthroughs from literature, and a small number of laboratory experiments. The student is expected to actively take part in all activities, and gain a background for pursuing experimental work in local groups dedicated to the physics of quantum devices, X-ray and neutron scattering.

Learning Outcome


After the course the student is expected to have the following skills:

  • Describe the properties of gaseous and liquid helium and nitrogen, and differentiate between 3He and 4He at low temperatures.
  • Identify the main components of a cryostat, and explain physical properties of solids that are relevant for the conduction and isolation of heat.
  • Explain the temperature dependence of electron-phonon coupling, and its implications for achieving low electron temperatures in quantum devices.
  • Describe different ways of measuring cryogenic electron and phonon temperatures.
  • Explain resistivity, resistance, conductivity, conductance, magnetic susceptibility.
  • Explain the concept of a semiconducting heterostructure, and the role of doping.
  • Explain two- and four-terminal measurements, lock-in detection, and basic concepts of electrical noise.
  • Explain principles of amplifiers, shielding, and the identification and elimination of extrinsic noise sources.
  • Explain the concept of coherence, and how it relates to particles and waves. Explain typical scales for coherence time and coherence lengths of solid state electrons, X-rays and neutrons.
  • Explain fundamental optical properties of X-ray and neutron radiation and its interaction with solids.
  • Establish formulas for the scattering function, and standard steps in the analysis of scattering data.
  • Work in small teams and efficiently perform an experiment, analyze the data and find a convincing interpretation. Communicate the results in a written document that places the findings into the context of what was known or expected before the experiment, and how they inform other experiments or raise important questions.


After the course the student will be familiar with physical concepts that address the behavior of solids at low temperature, the flow of heat and electrical carriers, and the propagation of X-rays and neutrons. The student will know how interactions can be described by elastic and inelastic scattering, and the important role of coherence and interference. Most importantly, the student will understand how these theoretical concepts connect to key experimental methods used in the daily life of experimental groups dedicated to solid state quantum devices, neutron scattering and x-ray diffraction. Discussions of hot-off-the-press experimental literature and/or hands-on experiments in the course laboratory will prepare the young scientist for a smooth transition into an experimental research group.


This course will provide the students with a background for further studies specializing in the physics and applications of quantum devices, X-ray and neutron scattering. The students will gain insight into the real-life execution of scientific experiments and the teamwork and software tools necessary to analyze and report results, in preparation for pursuing for example an experimental M.Sc. project.

will be announced later

Familiarity with quantum mechanics, condensed matter physics, statistical physics. The student is expected to be familiar with the contents of the courses KM1 and CMP1 or equivalent.
Lectures, exercises, group work, selected scientific articles and/or hands-on experiments.
Restricted elective for specialisation "Quantum Physics"
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes under invigilation
Oral examination (20 minutes, without time for preparation), covers content of course and written reports.
Exam registration requirements

Continuous assessment is based on active participation in lectures, lab experiments, and oral/written activities.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

Same as regular exam. If a student has passed one of the two parts of the exam, the student only need to take the missing part again.
The continuous part of the exam can only be taken as part of the course in the block. A student who has not passed this part therefore has to follow the course again.

Criteria for exam assesment

Demonstration of the Skills associated with this course’s goals during oral exam. Diligence in preparing and performing lab experiments in small teams. Clarity and accuracy of written reports.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 44
  • Exercises
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 114
  • Total
  • 206