Organic and molecular systems

Many solids are made up of atomic building blocks, but new physics can be explored by constructing materials out of molecules.

Solid-state physics, and the study of ferromagnetism in particular, has been traditionally concerned almost exclusively with the study of inorganic elements (e.g. iron, cobalt and nickel), alloys (e.g. permalloy) and simple compounds (e.g. transition metal oxides). This field of study has provided numerous technological rewards based upon the exploitation of such materials. But the underlying assumption that has driven much of the most basic research on solids is that the most fundamental physics research is best concentrated on chemically simple materials. This assumption is quite misplaced, and in fact some of the most exciting studies in condensed matter physics can now be attempted on certain organic materials which are chemically very complicated indeed. Their tunability, resulting from the rich structure of carbon chemistry which allows many small adjustments to be made to each molecule, means that, in principle, materials can be tailor-made to exhibit desired properties.

We study purely organic ferromagnets, molecular magnets built up by joining up transition metal ions with molecular linkers, spin liquids and molecular superconductors. These materials provide wonderful opportunities to study electronic, magnetic and superconducting behaviour in a chemically-controlled environment.

Above is shown molecular structure of a quasi-one-dimensional magnetic system consisting of magnetic S=1/2 copper ions connected by pyrazine molecules to form a series of layers. The magnetic exchange interactions within the layers are strong, but very weak in the interlayer direction. See Goddard et al. New Journal of Physics, 10, 083025, (2008).

Groups investigating these materials