Physics and Astronomy PhD (Condensed Matter Physics specialism)

Video: A PhD student talks about his work at Birmingham

Postgraduate doctoral research degree in Physics and Astronomy PhD (Condensed Matter Physics specialism):

The research carried out by the Condensed Matter Physics Research Group probes fundamental and applied aspects of quantum effects in solids, superconducting qubits and novel superconducting and magnetic materials. 

Our key research areas are: flux lines in high temperature and novel superconductors; superconducting qubits; quantum effects in solids; and biophysics applications.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Doctoral research

Study Options: Full time

Duration: PhD: 3.5 years full-time; MSc by research: 1 year full-time

Start date: Contact the School directly for further information


The research carried out by the Condensed Matter Physics Research Group probes fundamental and applied aspects of quantum effects in solids, superconducting qubits and novel superconducting and magnetic materials.

Research areas

Flux lines in high temperature and novel superconductors

The ‘condensate’ of Cooper pairs in a superconductor means that magnetic fields pass through in the form of quantised flux lines, each containing one quantum of flux associated with circulating supercurrents. The structure and dynamics of magnetic flux lines in superconductors, which may form a lattice, liquid or a 'glass' are studied experimentally by small-angle neutron diffraction and muon spin rotation, using international facilities.

The flux lattice structure tells us about fundamental interactions inside superconductors. In addition to “cuprate” high temperature superconductors, there is a wide range of metals with novel electrical and magnetic properties arising from strong electron correlations. They include Sr2RuO4 which is believed to be a p-wave superconductor, in which the electrons are paired with parallel spin, as opposed to the opposite spins of conventional and cuprate superconductors. We are also investigating the properties of CeCoIn5, which is a “Pauli-limited” “heavy fermion” superconductor, in which the superconductivity in high magnetic fields is suppressed by the magnetic effects on the electron spin, instead of the usual diamagnetism. The properties of these novel materials are studied using muon and neutron measurements at temperatures down to 50 mK in fields as high as 11 T.

Professor Ted Forgan and Dr Elizabeth Blackburn

Superconducting Qubits

The study of Josephson tunnel junctions and device applications includes the evaluation of superconducting 'qubit' structures, which may form the building blocks of quantum computers. These are being made from both conventional and high temperature superconductors, and allow us to observe the quantum behaviour of a “macroscopic” object. Such measurements use temperatures close to absolute zero obtained with dilution refrigerators or adiabatic demagnetisation, plus clever design to avoid the disturbing influence of electrical noise.

Dr Chris Muirhead, Dr Mark Colclough and Dr Edward Tarte

Quantum effects in solids

We are interested in making measurements on a wide range of systems using big international facilities such as synchrotrons and neutron sources. With international and Birmingham collaborators, we are currently investigating the dynamics of solid helium, for which the structure and atomic motion is controlled by quantum mechanics, magnetic thin film structures and devices, unconventional superconductors and magnetic materials.

Dr Elizabeth Blackburn

Biophysics applications

We are using magnetic measurements in an interdisciplinary project using SQUIDS and minute electrical connections for observation of living biological systems

Dr Mark Colclough and Dr Edward Tarte 

Related links

School of Physics and Astronomy

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply.
Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships
We have a number of studentships supported by the UK research councils EPSRC and STFC available each year, including some CASE awards. These studentships cover the costs of tuition fees and provide a subsistence allowance for 3.5 years. They are available to UK nationals with at least an upper second-class Honours degree from a UK university, or equivalent. Preference is usually given to those holding four-year MPhys or MSci degrees.

We offer about half a dozen postgraduate teaching assistantships each year as top-ups to EPSRC and STFC studentships. There are also substantial opportunities for postgraduate demonstrators. EU nationals may be eligible for fees-only awards, which are occasionally supplemented by the School. Scholarships may be available, for more information contact the School directly or email

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

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International students
We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements.

Standard English language requirements apply.

How to apply

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Research interests of staff

The School of Physics and Astronomy was placed among the leading research institutions in the latest (2008) Research Assessment Exercise.

Our research portfolio is wide-ranging, and covers three principal themes: Particle and Nuclear Physics; Quantum Matter and Nanoscale Science; and Astronomy. We have over 120 academic and research staff together with 120 graduate students with around 50 technical and clerical support staff. Our annual research income is over £8 million and more than 250 research publications are produced each year.

Visit the website for the Condensed Matter research group for further information.

Related research


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