Research Groups

The Department of Physics and Astronomy comprises several research groups. The work of these groups is summarised below; click on the group heading to go to that group's home page.

Condensed Matter Physics

Nanomaterials

The CMP group study the fundamental behaviour of systems at the atomic scale. Research areas include: cluster assembled materials, quantum theory of semiconducting nanostructures, self organised materials and soft condensed matter.

Primarily we are interested in systems that have application in modern technologies, for example in nanoscience and biophysics. Current projects are related to novel devices in the fields of molecular and opto-electronics, quantum information theory and magnetic sensing.

Radio and Space Plasma Physics

The Sun-Earth relationship

The Radio and Space Plasma Physics Group at the University of Leicester is the largest in the UK whose work centres on ground-based studies of the Earth's outer environment and related areas. It consists of about 40 individuals, academic staff, technical and support staff, research fellows, and research students. The research programme concerns the study of the outer plasma environment of the Earth and other planets, i.e. the ionosphere and magnetosphere, and their interactions with the solar wind plasma on the outside, and the neutral atmosphere on the inside.

Fundamental research in these areas is undertaken in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Theoretical Astrophysics

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The members of the Theoretical Astrophysics group study some of the key physical processes which govern the evolution of the Universe. These processes operate on a wide range of scales, from the accretion of matter onto a black hole to the formation of elliptical galaxies via mergers of disc galaxies. Much of our work involves large-scale numerical simulations, supported by a rolling grant from STFC. In addition, we also work closely with the Leicester X-ray and Observational Astronomy Group taking advantage of their involvement in Chandra , XMM-Newton and Swift. We are also involved in the modelling of observational data at a wide range of wavelengths.

Space Projects and Instrumentation

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The Space Research Centre houses the Space Project and Instrument Group of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester. The Centre has the role of carrying out the space research programme of the University in collaboration with other members of the Department. The Centre also has the aim of developing cross-departmental initiatives within the University.

The main activities of the Space Research Centre are in the areas of instrumentation and missions for space astrophysics, planetary science, earth observation science, technology transfer and exploitation, undergraduate and postgraduate education, and public outreach.

Earth Observation Science

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Physics EOS research is based in the Space Research Centre and is a part of the Department of Physics & Astronomy. The wider EOS group is interdisciplinary in nature bringing together members from the departments of Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry and Geography.

Our research centers on investigating the behaviour of the global Earth system on all time scales using remote sensing instruments both in orbit and on the ground to make measurements of this system in order to better understand it. Our research is cutting edge and has given us a much better understanding of the most important climatic phenomena; Global Warming, El Nino and Industrial Pollution to name but a few. We also collaborate with partners in the UK and overseas to design, develop and operate new and improved instruments which will give us a much improved understanding of our world.

X-ray and Observational Astronomy

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The Group has a distinguished record in high-energy astrophysics, having played a leading role in X-ray observatories such as Ariel-V, Exosat, Ginga and Rosat, now continued with Chandra, XMM-Newton and Swift. Although there is still an emphasis on X-ray astronomy, recent staff appointments have led to a strengthening and broadening of the programme to include the use of the full range of ground-based and space-based facilities for multi-wavelength astronomy. Active research interests include the study of white and brown dwarf stars, stellar coronae, cataclysmic variables, supernova remnants, normal, starburst and active galaxies, clusters of galaxies, deep X-ray surveys, the cosmic X-ray background radiation and the search for extrasolar planets. Recently the priority has been to prepare for the wealth of X-ray data now arriving from the XMM-Newton and Chandra observatories and, in particular, Swift after its launch in November 2004.

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The Swift mission is allowing us to view Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and study how they behave over time. This has never been done before as GRBs only last for a very short time (a few milliseconds to a few hundered seconds). However, they are extremely important as in this short amount of time they emit more energy than our Sun would in 880 billion years! (By comparison the Universe is only about 12 billion years old.) This mission will allow us to learn about the most violent events in the universe in an attempt to better understand what they are and why they occur.

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