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Materials Physics

A wide range of problems in materials physics from ambient to extreme conditions are investigated. These include condensed matter studies as a function of pressure and temperature as well the development of new potentially useful materials.

The Geophysical Laboratory has made important advances in the growth of diamond by chemical vapor deposition (CVD).  Methods have been developed to produce single-crystal diamond at low pressure having a broad range of properties. Video- "Growing Synthetic Diamonds"

Ferroelectrics are very interesting not only in their manifold useful applications, but also are very interesting in their fundamental physics. What makes these materials so extraordinarily sensitive to applied electrical and stress fields? How can their properties be optimized? Can we design new materials that have better properties?

Scientists have found that in addition to chemical manipulation, superconductivity can be induced by high pressure in high-temperature superconductors. The high critical temperatures on record were first measured here (164 K). 

Materials Physics News


Washington, D.C., 20 March 2015— A team led by Geophysical Laboratory scientists was able to discover five new forms of silica under extreme pressures at room temperature.

Washington, D.C., 17 November 2014— A team led by the Geophysical Laboratory's Timothy Strobel has synthesized an entirely new form of silicon, one that promises even greater future applications. Although silicon is incredibly common in today's technology, its so-called indirect band gap semiconducting properties prevent it from being considered for next-generation, high-efficiency applications. Strobel's silicon has a quasi-direct band gap that falls within the desired range for solar absorption, something that has never before been achieved.

Washington, D.C., 12 November 2013—Motivated by a strong interest in understanding the effects of pressure on these materials, the Geophysical Laboratory's Muhtar Ahart and  Russell J. Hemley, employed high-pressure x-ray diffraction techniques to investigate the phase behavior of the Fe0.81Ga0.19 alloy at 300 K.