Module code: PHY3056

Module Overview

This module is designed to provide a broad overview of quantum magnetism and superconductivity and their applications in modern science and technology. Both superconductivity and magnetism are manifestations of electronic charge and spin, and constitute prime examples of phase transitions in metals.  A range of phenomena that is resulting from these phase transitions is surveyed. A significant part of the module is devoted to technological applications in magnetometry and spintronics.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

CLOWES Steven (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 107

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 11

Captured Content: 10

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

The module will assume prior knowledge equivalent to the following modules. If you have not taken these modules you should consult the module descriptors - Quantum Physics (PHY2069). Solid State Physics (PHY2068) & From atoms to Lasers (PHY2062).

Module content


  • Electrodynamics of superconductors

    • The London equations

    • Meissner effect, Vortices

    • Drude model

    • Finite frequency response

    • Type I/II superconductivity.

  • Cooper pairs and introduction to microscopic theory

  • Quantum circuits

    • Josephson effect

    • The dc SQUID

    •  Superconducting circuits.

  • The Ginzburg-Landau theory*


  • Diamagnetism & Paramagnetism

    • Quantum and classical explanation of diamagnetism

    • Quantum mechanical (Brillouin) theory of paramagnetism

    • The Brillouin function

  • Ferromagnetism

    • Origin of ferromagnetism – the exchange interaction

    • Direct and indirect exchange interaction – anti-ferromagnetism

    • Characteristics of ferromagnetism

  • Magnetism in metals

    • Density of states at the Fermi energy

    • Pauli paramagnetism

    • Ferromagnetic metals

  • Domains

    • Domain walls – Bloch and Néel domain walls

    • Magnetocrystalline anisotropy

    • Domain formation and magnetisation

    • Applications of soft and hard magnetic materials

  • Metal Spintronics

    • Magnetoresistance

    • The Spin-Valve

    • Tunnel Magnetoesistance – TMR

    • Magnetic Random-Access Memory - MRAM

    • Magnetic Racetrack Memory

  • Semiconductor Spintronics

    • The Spin Transistor

    • Spin dynamics in semiconductors

    • Spin control in semiconductors

    • Spin lifetime in semiconductors

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Coursework Assignment I 15
Coursework Coursework Assignment II 15
Examination 2-hour End of semester exam 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

  • analytical ability by the solving of unseen problems in both coursework and exam

  • subject knowledge by the recall of both “textbook” theory and important research articles in the exam

  • ability to generalize text-book theory by open-ended research component in the coursework


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • 2-hour closed book invigilated exam, weighted at 70% 

  • 2 assignments on specials topics, which will take a total of 40 hours of effort, each weighted at 15% - total of 30%


Formative assessment and feedback

  • Students will receive verbal feedback on progress with problems in tutorials and model solutions to the tutorial questions.


Module aims

  • This module aims to: To provide an introduction to the important role that electronic interaction plays in solid-state physics leading to phase transitions in electronic systems. To provide an introduction to microscopic theory and phenomenology of both quantum magnetic phenomena and superconductivity. Introduction to applications of solid-state physics to micro-electronics and metrology.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Describe the electromagnetic behaviour of Type I superconductors in electromagnetic fields, and the London theory. KC
002 Exhibit an understanding of the topic of Cooper pairs and how its predictions relate to experimental observations KC
003 Explain how applications are related to the theory of superconductivity  (e.g. Josephson effect and SQUIDs) and  KPT
007 Apply the principles of exchange interactions to determine magnetic ordering in materials. KC
011 Evaluate spin diffusion and lifetimes in semiconductors KC
012 Discuss the potential of future spintronic technologies and the associated technological challenges.   KCP
010 Determination of magnetoresistances based on material parameters and structure. KC
004 Explain the quantum origin and characteristics of diamagnetism and paramagnetism. K
005 Determination of magnetic properties such as susceptibility and Curie temperature using observed magnetic behaviour. KC
009 Determination of domain wall formation using energy considerations KC
006 Demonstrate application of Brillouin function in determining paramagnetic behaviour, including incorporating a molecular field to describe ferromagnetism. KC
008 Demonstrate application of the density of states in metals to describe paramagnetic and ferromagnetic behaviour. KC

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to provide:

  • a comprehensive theoretical treatment for the subject knowledge

  • practice in problem-solving for the cognitive skills

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • “chalk and talk” lectures (total 22 hours) backed up with a guided study to stimulate uptake of subject knowledge. Lectures will be recorded and made available on Ponopto.

  • tutorial demonstration of solutions to key problems after students have attempted them for formative feedback (1 hour per week x 11)

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHY3056

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics with Quantum Technologies BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.