22 January 2003
Solid State Physics I
Prof. P. M. Goldbart
University of Illinois
Physics 489: Solid State Physics I is the Frst of a two-semester sequence of graduate-level
courses whose aim is to teach the central ideas of the physics of matter in the solid state.
A more thorough course syllabus is given in Handout 2. If you happen to do research in
condensed matter physics then it is likely that you will make extensive use of ideas developed
in this course. Even if you choose another area for research, I believe that at least some of
the concepts and techniques that we shall encounter are su±ciently general and important
to be worth understanding.
²or example, the growing Feld of photonic band-gap materials, which aims to tailor
periodic optical media to suit various applications, rests squarely on (and one may even say
was inspired by) the band-structure concept of solid state physics. The same relationship
holds between the Feld of atomic gases conFned to optical lattices, in which phenomena
familiar from solid state physics can be explored in settings that allow for exceptional control
I believe, however, that, practicalities aside, the main reason for taking this course is that
the subject-matter that we shall be developing—the quantum-statistical theory of solids—
forms the intellectual and practical cornerstone for explaining many of the the physical
aspects of our daily lives. Why are metals cold to the touch, why are freshly exposed metal
surfaces shiny, why are good electrical insulators often good thermal insulators,.
The subject brings to bear tools of twentieth century science (quantum mechanics and
statistical mechanics) on the task of understanding the physical properties of the matter
around us, in all its rich variety, in terms of its microscopic constituents. Little at the
atomic scale prepares us for at this rich variety (e.g., the existence and properties of metals,
semiconductors, insulators, magnets, superconductors,.
..). Thus, I regard the exploration of
properties that emerge in this limit, viz., “more particles”, as being fundamental, as are other