What does creating materials atom by atom have to do with the iPhone X? A condensed matter physicist would tell you that the microscopic understanding of silicon led to transistors, computers, and now the smartphones we know and use every day. In other words, sometimes you (literally) have to look at the small picture to understand the big.
Tyler S. Smith is a graduate student in condensed matter physics within the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Tennessee. He conducts his research at the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials, where he is focused on the creation of novel 2D materials and subsequent in-situ characterization within a clean ultra-high vacuum environment. Smith’s experiments start by optimizing growth parameters for different surface reconstructions, which involves growing sub-monolayers of metallic elements on readily available substrates. Structural and electronic properties of the surface are then probed.
“To understand how materials are structured and the electronic interactions that drive emergent properties in them is to understand the world in front of us at a very fundamental level,” said Smith.