Solid-state physics, the largest branch of condensed matter physics, is the study of rigid matter, or solids. The bulk of solid-state physics theory and research is focused on crystals, largely because the periodicity of atoms in a crystal — its defining characteristic —facilitates mathematical modeling, and also because crystalline materials often have electrical, magnetic, optical, or mechanical properties that can be exploited for engineering purposes.
The framework of most solid-state physics theory is the Schrödinger (wave) formulation of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. Bloch's Theorem, which characterizes the wavefunctions of electrons in a periodic potential, is an important starting point for much analysis. Since Bloch's Theorem applies only to periodic potentials, and since unceasing random movements of atoms in a crystal disrupt periodicity, Bloch's Theorem is only an approximation, but it has proven to be a tremendously valuable approximation, without which most solid-state physics analysis would be intractable. Deviations from periodicity are treated by quantum mechanical perturbation theory.
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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04