Cooking, Fishing and Jogging through Phase Space: A Practical Guide to Discovering (and Understanding) New Materials

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 – 3:15pm
Regents 109
Paul Canfield
Distinguished Professor and Robert Allen Wright Chair of Physics, Senior Physicist, Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University

The design, discovery, characterization and control of novel materials is perhaps the most important research area for humanity as it moves into the 21rst century. A myriad of societal problems concerning energy, clear water and air, and medicine all need to be solved by the discovery of new compounds with dramatically improved, or even new, properties. The search for such materials requires a blending of skills and mind sets that, traditionally, have been segregated into different academic disciplines: physics, chemistry, metallurgy, materials science. In this lecture I will outline the basic philosophy and techniques that we use to search for novel materials. These include a combination of intuition, experience, compulsive optimism and a desire to share discovery. (To some extent the driving force can be considered similar to that which drives the host of a fine dinner party.) In the second half of the lecture, the specific case of superconductivity will be used as an example of one specific such search. Over the past couple of decades a growing sense of where, and even how to seach for new superconductors has been developing, with the recent discovery of the FeAs based materials providing, at least for me, clear guidance. The lecture will be general and include side comments, mildly slanderous asides and may even have references to philosophers living and dead.

HostPaola Barbara
Discussion LeaderPaola Barbara