Traffic lights and p-n junctions

The Physics and Chemistry of Solids
March 12, 1999

It requires enormous confidence in a subject, combined with shrewd judgement about what is important, to write a textbook that adequately covers the fundamentals and at the same time is thoroughly up to date. But this is what Stephen Elliott has achieved in The Physics and Chemistry of Solids . He has combined undergraduate accounts of condensed matter physics, solid-state chemistry and basic materials science to produce a masterly account of the formation, structure, and properties of materials.

After a relatively short chapter on materials synthesis, there is a substantial one on defects and atomic structure and bonding, followed by chapters on defects and atomic dynamics. There are then two chapters on electrons in solids and electron dynamics, one on magnetic properties, and a final chapter on dimensionality.

Each chapter has problems and references. The chapter titles are rather modestly understated: the chapter on atomic structure and bonding contains important sections on real and reciprocal space crystallography; fundamentals of elasticity are covered in the chapter on defects; for the principles of p-n junctions you have to look in the chapter on reduced dimensionality. But this is simply to say that the book covers an enormous amount of ground.

The Physics and Chemistry of Solids will be suitable for core work in a range of undergraduate physical science courses.

The preface contains suggested different road maps through the chapters for physicists, chemists, materials scientists, and engineers. But I confess that I rather prefer the integrated approach to these subjects that the book offers, with, for example, both bonds and bands viewpoints for electrons in solids.

I studied for my PhD in the same laboratory as Elliott, the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. The group of which I was a member was called physics and chemistry of solids. We mainly studied surfaces, a topic that is explicitly left out of this book, but the interdisciplinary approach that was fostered there has remained with me all my life.

Many physicists, and some chemists and materials scientists, will have used one of the many editions of Kittel's book for their undergraduate solid-state physics. I am going to stick my neck out and venture that The Physics and Chemistry of Solids will increasingly fulfil that role.

This is not only because of the way that it brings different disciplines together, but also because it contains a splendid selection of some of the most exciting new topics that are likely to prove of lasting importance.

The colour illustrations include a CASTEP calculation of electronic charge density in GaAs, superconducting YBCO levitation, size-quantisation effects in CdSe nanocrystals, a light-emitting polymer display, and a green InGaN single-quantum-well LED traffic light.

The whole textbook is a magnificent achievement, and promises to become a classic.

Andrew Briggs is reader in materials, University of Oxford.

The Physics and Chemistry of Solids

Author - Stephen Elliott
ISBN - 0 471 98194 X and 98195 8
Publisher - Wiley
Price - £39.95 and £24.95
Pages - 770

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