The fundamental materials science 

Condensed matter and material physics explore the make-up, interactions and physical properties of solid, crystalline, soft and liquid materials and structures. Condensed matter physics has played a key role in technological advances that have dramatically changed our lives. In addition to presenting rich and fascinating questions about the physical world, it is an area of physics with many real-world applications.  

Our ability to create new materials and structures—at smaller scales and large quantities—is linked to the advanced understanding of the magnetic, optical and electronic properties of condensed matter materials. The invention of transistors and semiconductor chips has led to the use of data storage, telecommunication and multi-media devices. Superconducting magnets are used in MRI tomography for medical diagnostics and solid-state sensors and detectors are used for space exploration.

Associated schools, institutes & centres


Our research is directed at characterising and understanding the fundamental properties and behaviour of natural and advanced materials to improve sustainability and manufacturing outcomes. Using an array of bulk, atomic, optical, and nuclear techniques, our research has application in a wide range of areas including:  

  • magnetic and electronic devices 
  • optical signal processing and data storage 
  • nanoscale functionality 
  • ionising radiation dosimetry and imaging 
  • magnetic refrigeration.

Competitive advantage

  • We have access to an extensive suite of in-house facilities available for the preparation, characterisation and investigation of materials over a wide range of temperatures. We also have access to neutron and light scattering facilities at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (OPAL reactor) and the Australian Synchrotron as well as overseas facilities (Germany, Canada, UK, France). Our research investigations are supported by detailed analytical and related theoretical studies.  

Specialist, in-house expertise in low-temperature techniques includes: 

  • High-resolution optical spectroscopy exploiting hole burning techniques. 
  • Rare earth and iron-based Mössbauer spectroscopy as a probe of local atomic interactions. 
  • Combination of bulk and microscopic techniques applied to magnetism. 
  • Low temperature transport characterisation of nanoscale electronic devices based on two dimensional materials. 
  • X-ray diffraction to low temperatures, complemented by electron microscopy. 
  • Magnetic resonance, electronic and nuclear, applied at low temperatures. 


Our researchers

 Sean Cadogan
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Physical Science research lead Wayne Hutchison
Physical Science research lead
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Senior Lecturer Oleh Klochan
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Professor Hans Riesen
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Associate Professor and Research Team Leader, UNSW Canberra Radiation Safety Officer Heiko Timmers
Associate Professor and Research Team Leader, UNSW Canberra Radiation Safety Officer
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