Physical Sciences

Physical Sciences DRPAbout

La Trobe University is a national leader in Condensed Matter Physics (CMP). CMP encompasses a broad range of research activities, ranging from fundamental studies of matter to the development and application of materials in a range of industry sectors.

The Physical Sciences Disciplinary Research Program incorporates the following seven research programs:

  • Nanoscale X-ray imaging and spectroscopy
  • Nanophysics and quantum materials
  • X-ray interactions with matter
  • Diamond-based biosensors
  • Multifunctional nanomaterials
  • Functional materials and surface science
  • Nanoelectronics.

Physical Sciences DRPProjects

Selected program highlights:

  • Nanoscale X-ray imaging and spectroscopy
    This work is done in close collaboration with researchers at the Australian Synchotron, where this group operates a dedicated soft X-ray imaging endstation. The group also uses modern methods of numerical simulation and nanofabrication to optimise and fabricate X-ray optics and novel synchrotron instrumentation.Nanoscale X-ray imaging and spectroscopy is a program of research that aims to develop soft X-ray coherent diffractive imaging and spectroscopy methods for in situ and in operando study of magnetic and functional materials.
  • Nanophysics and quantum materials
    The Atom-scale Research Laboratory is a group that is currently engaged in a program of research studying surface functionalisation and surface transfer doping for a variety of semiconductor materials. The group work has a strong focus on the functionalisation of diamond surfaces for the development of new carbon-based quantum electronic devices.
  • X-ray interactions with matter 
    This project involves critical study of atom-photon interactions by accurate determination of the complex atomic form factors. Photon-atom interaction cross-sections are important in many fields of fundamental and applied physics. As many uncritical applications are well established, researchers and users outside the field have assumed that experiment and theory have converged with no further critical goals in this area. This assumption is seriously flawed for all elements in many energy regions.

    Researchers have developed a novel experimental technique called the X-ray Extended Range Technique (XERT) for accurately determining these cross-sections. The project will apply XERT in the investigation of the angular dependence of X-ray scattering, which probes wavefunction distributions, bonding, shake-up and shake-down processes and which is at the forefront of much modern atomic physics.
  • Functional materials and surface science
    Research activities are directed to understanding interactions at surfaces, the creation of functional molecular structures including polymeric sensors, tailored surface chemistries and nanoparticles for drug delivery, and molecular characterisation of these surfaces.  
  • Nanoelectronics
    Research activities focus on strategic and translational research and innovation through integration of complementary research expertise in micro/nanotechnologies, and information and communication technologies.

Physical Sciences DRPPartners, Industry, Community links and Cooperation

The Australian Synchrotron is a vital resource for the Physical Sciences Disciplinary Research Program.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Advanced Molecular Imaging is developing and using innovative microscopy and imaging techniques to observe the details of how immune systems function at the molecular level. The highly collaborative Centre brings together biologists, physicists and chemists from five Australian universities, the University of Warwick in the UK, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), synchrotrons in Australia and Germany, and several high-tech companies. It is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence and funded with more than $39 million over seven years from 2014, $28 million from the ARC and a further $10 million from its partners.

The Centre for Materials and Surface Science (CMSS) brings together experts from physics, chemistry, materials science and electronic engineering, and offers world class capabilities in nanocharacterisation focused on the surface science, analysis, imaging and synchrotron domains. CMSS analytical specialists have worked with more than 50 Australian and international companies over 15 years, providing high quality surface analytical and X-ray imaging services. In addition, a range of opportunities are available for R&D projects and extended research engagements.

The Centre for Technology Infusion, a Research and Innovation Centre, is located at the La Trobe University's Research and Development Park and is incorporated within the College of Science, Health and Engineering. One of the strategic priorities of the Centre is to further develop collaborative relationships both nationally and internationally, with partnership stakeholders including universities, research institutes, governments and industry.

Public activities

Announcements of conferences, seminars and related public events are made via the departments, centres and groups participating in the Physical Sciences Disciplinary Research Program:


Dr Paul J Pigram
Associate Professor, Director, Centre for Materials and Surface Science
Physical Sciences Disciplinary Research Program Leader
Department of Physics and Chemistry
La Trobe University, Melbourne Victoria, 3086