October 12, 2001
Although the origin of condensed matter physics lies in the study of natural materials, physicists have become increasingly interested in systems that are in one way or another artificial. This has happened because an interesting symbiosis has developed between condensed-matter physics and the microtechnology used to make modern electronics. While physics research has led to new technologies, the techniques used to manufacture integrated circuits can be used to create miniature systems with fascinating physical properties. Examples include conducting films that are so thin that they are effectively two-dimensional, structures so small that the controlled flow of single electrons is achievable, and integrated circuits containing millions of superconducting devices called Josephson junctions. This talk, which will be accessible to non-scientists, will discuss the remarkable growth of the microelectronics industry, why it has helped to create a new kind of physics, and what some of the new physics is about.
Dr. Christopher J. Lobb is a professor of physics and Associate Director of the Center for Superconductivity Research at the University of Maryland. A condensed matter physicist, Dr. Lobb has research interest ranging from superconducting materials and devices through localization, mesoscopic physics, quantum computing, and the properties of inhomogeneous materials. Much of his work has involved artificial systems fabricated using integrated circuit techniques, such as Josephson-junction arrays and single-electron transistors. He has also done theory and numerical simulations of random media, as well as work on the mechanical properties of materials and pattern formation in viscous fluid flow. Dr. Lobb was elected a Fellow of the American Physics Society in recognition of this research. He has received numerous University of Maryland awards, including the Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Maryland Center for Teaching Excellence, the Invention of the Year Award, and the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award. Prior to coming to Maryland in 1990, he was Associate Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Denmark, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Chicago, and a Guest Scientist at NIST in Gaithersburg.