Professor of Physics
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Peter Hirschfeld is a theoretical condensed matter physicist who has for the past 20 years concentrated on the problem of high-temperature superconductivity.
“Superconductivity” is the remarkable property of some materials to conduct electricity without energy loss. Hirschfeld’s research is on the thermodynamic and transport properties of these materials, with specific interest in impurity effects. His goal is to understand why the critical temperatures in a class of materials called the high-Tc cuprates are so high and to possibly make predictions to raise them further.
During the first 15 years of his study on this problem, he developed, with collaborators, the theory of disordered d-wave superconductors (d-wave refers to the symmetry of the electron pairs which form the superconducting ground state). For this work, he received the Friedrich Bessel Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and was made a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Using scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM), Hirschfeld is studying underdoped materials and expects to devote about half of his research efforts in the next few years to this area.
“STM has recently brought previously unimaginable insight to the study of cuprate superconductors by providing spectroscopic images at the sub-angstrom resolution,” he explains.