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Understanding how and why materials transition from one phase of matter to another has long been a focus of both physics and materials science.

Now, research conducted by UT graduate student Lekh Poudel has helped unlock some of those secrets, garnering publication in Physical Review Letters in the process.

Poudel, a physics student at UT who works with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Quantum Condensed Matter Division, said that their observations noted a number of findings that couldn’t be explained by typical physics.  

That transition took place at what is known as the elastic quantum critical point, or QCP. It’s at that point that the changes aren’t caused by thermal energy, but rather by fluctuations in the atoms themselves. 

A key finding was that by adding a small amount of gold to a lanthanum-copper material, diffraction techniques could be used to show such QCPs.

The work involved research both in UT’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the Tickle College of Engineering, in addition to ORNL.

A full story can be seen here