Solid State Physics (PHYS*4150)

Code and section: PHYS*4150*01

Term: Winter 2010

Instructor: Elisabeth Nicol


Course Information

Calendar Description

Bonding in solids, thermal and electrical properties of solids, energy bands, imperfections in solids, properties of semiconductors and insulators.

Prerequisites: PHYS*4040 (Quantum Mechanics II), PHYS*4240 (Statistical Physics II) [or PHYS*3240 if you are a co-op student].


Lecturer Office Email
Elisabeth Nicol MacN-329


This course deals with crystalline solids and is intended to provide students with basic physical concepts and mathematical tools used to describe solids. The course deals with groups of materials, as in the periodic table, in terms of their structure, electronic, optical, and thermal properties. Specific objectives are:

  • To show how crystal symmetry leads to substantial mathematical simplications when dealing with solids.
  • To describe basic experimental measurements, to show typical data sets and to compare these with theory.

Method of Evaluation

Assessment Weight
Quizzes 5%
Assignments 25%
Midterm (2 hours) 35%
Final Examination 35%

The final examination has been set for Wednesday, April 14 from 7:00-9:00pm (location to be announced). There will be no make-up quizzes and a grade of zero will be given for a missed quiz, however, the two lowest marks will be excluded from the final grade.

Course Materials

Recommended Course Texts

  • “Solid State Physics”, by N.W. Ashcroft and N.D. Mermin (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976). I can put the library copy on course reserve for those who do not wish to purchase the text. In Ashcroft and Mermin, we will be mainly covering the first nine chapters and chapters 22 and 23. Other topics will be covered depending on the time available. Another book commonly used for this level is “Introduction to Solid State Physics” by C. Kittel (Wiley, 7th Ed., 1996). Several earlier editions exist in the library and I have a copy of the 6th edition that you are welcome to borrow from me. In this text the equivalent items are covered in the first seven chapters and chapters 9 to 11.
  • “Simulations for Solid State Physics”, by R.H. Silsbee and J. Dr¨ager (Cambridge, 1997). We will probably use 4 of the 14 simulations. The software can be downloaded from for free. I have a spare copy of the book which I can put on reserve if need be.

Other Recommended Texts

The QC 176 section in the library has several useful books on Solid State. At this stage of your education, you should be consulting more than one text to enhance your learning and understanding of the material. No particular book is perfect in all respects and scientists regularly refer to several books and papers to understand a concept.

Course Topics

  1. Electrons in a box
    Free electron metals: Drude theory (classical), Sommerfeld theory (quantum mechanical)
  2. The static crystal lattice
    Crystal lattices, the reciprocal lattice, X-ray diffraction
  3. Electrons in a static lattice
    Bloch’s theorem, nearly free electrons (NFE), band structure, Brillouin zones
  4. Lattice dynamics
    The classical harmonic crystal, the quantum harmonic crystal, measuring phonons - neutron scattering, Raman scattering and Brillouin scattering.
  5. Additional topics as time allows
    Semiconductors, superconductivity, quantum Hall effect, magnetism, etc.

Course Policies

Consideration for Illness, etc.

If you request academic consideration due to illness of a physical, psychological or emotional nature, or due to compassionate reasons, you may be required to provide suitable documentation (e.g., a medical certificate from a physician) at the discretion of the lecturer. See the Undergraduate Calendar for details.

Getting Help

At present, I do not have fixed office hours for consultation, however, should it become necessary, I will post office hours outside my door and inform you in class of these hours. You can, of course, always make an appointment to see me.

Collaboration versus Copying

Scientists often work alone or in groups, very often consulting fellow scientists and discussing their research problems with peers. Collaboration is a feature of scientific activity and there are many benefits to working with others. However, no ethical scientist would ever publish or claim the work of others as his or her own and generally scientists give reference to the appropriate source of ideas or techniques which are not their own.

You are a young scientist and, in this spirit, I encourage you to discuss with others as you learn the material and work on the problem assignments. However, the work that you submit as your assignment must be your own and not a copy of someone else’s work. Identical scripts will be given a mark of zero and plagiarism will be dealt with severely. I encourage you to cite your references, citing books and other articles when they are used and acknowledging discussions with those who have helped you in your understanding and completion of the problem. This is good scientific practice.