Coupling between electrons in ''strongly correlated materials'' is associated with many scientifically important and technologically useful phenomena, including superconductivity, ordered charge and spin density phases and quantum magnetism. This project will pursue spectroscopic studies of (1) recently discovered and technologically important superconductors from the iron-pnictide family which demonstrate high transition temperature and high critical fields, (2) other unconventional superconductors with competing ground states, and (3) prototypical low-dimensional quantum spin systems relevant for studying emerging quantum mechanical phenomena in strongly correlated materials. This project will also provide broad training to postdoc and undergraduate students in low-temperature high resolution magneto-optical spectroscopy.
In many newly discovered materials, there is a particularly strong interaction between the electron charges as well as between the magnetic moments leading to new collective behaviors such as superconductivity or various macroscopically long ranged ordered phases of charge and spin distributions. Understanding the unconventional behavior of these materials with strong interactions presents a great intellectual challenge and is critical to developing new technologies. This project will investigate the basic mechanisms responsible for unconventional properties of these strongly interacting materials by scattering light (i.e., "photons") from the materials while tuning the materials' properties through their novel phases by changing temperature and external magnetic fields. The goals of this project are to better understand the conditions responsible for the emerging properties of these materials: (i) explain the origin of superconductivity and other unconventional microscopically ordered phases, (ii) to elucidate how matter behaves under novel environmental conditions, and (iii) to develop new materials with enhanced functional properties. Equally important for the success of the project will be a dedicated effort to recruit talented undergraduate and graduate students into the research group, including students belonging to groups currently underrepresented in science. This project will also provide diverse interactions with leading international scientists and broad training to postdocs and students, and will be used as part of an outreach program to interest K-12 students in the sciences via tours of the advanced laser optical laboratory.