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Theory of Condensed Matter


Admission Requirements

Bachelor of Physics including an introduction to solid state physics , understanding electron band structure, phonons, etcetera.
Master courses: Quantum Theory, Statistical Physics a. Recommended, although not mandatory: Statistical Physics b and effective field theory.


The course gives an introduction into the theory describing the emergence of macroscopic matter from interacting microscopic constituents.

This revolves around the explanation of emergence principles such as spontaneous symmetry breaking and long range order, adiabatic continuity, collective excitations such as Goldstone bosons, quasiparticles, and topological excitations, as they arise both in weakly- and strongly interacting systems.

We will explain the mathematical theories underlying the understanding of the following states of matter:

  • The crystal, including the theory of quantum elasticity describing phonons and phonon interactions.

  • Magnetism, with a focus on Mott-insulators and superexchange; spin-wave theory.

  • Spin- and charge density waves in the weak coupling limit: the concept of nesting.

  • The microscopic theory of superconductivity and superfluidity: from local pairs to the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory.

  • The Ginzburg-Landau effective field theory of macroscopic superconductivity.

  • The Fermi-liquid including the origin of quasi-electrons, zero sound and plasmons.

With the help of the second quantization approach, perturbation theory and the mean-field theory the course introduces a number of fundamental concepts such as long-range order, spontaneous symmetry breaking, elementary, collective and topological excitations. These general concepts are illustrated on a range of archetypal examples such as crystalline solids, magnets, superfluids and superconductors and Fermi-liquid metals.

Course objectives

The course will provide students with an exercise ground to apply the mathematical techniques of quantum many body theory. This includes the second quantization formalism, Green's functions/propagators, linear response theory, perturbation theory, mean field theory, quantum statistical physics and elementary applications of the path-integral formalism.

At the end of the course you will be able to

  • Construct second-quantized models of quantum many-body systems

  • Calculate thermodynamic properties of model systems

  • Calculate linear response functions (e.g. magnetic susceptibility) of model systems

  • Describe elementary excitations of a model system

  • Use perturbation theory in a many-body system

  • Apply mean-field theory to interacting systems of bosons and fermions

  • Construct topological excitations of a quantum fluid

  • Use the random phase approximation

  • Derive and solve the BSC equation for the superconducting gap

  • Compute the pole strenght and effective mass of Fermi-liquid quasiparticles.


Physics Schedule
For detailed information go to Timetable in Brightspace

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

See Brightspace

Assessment method

Homework assignments 40% and a final examination 60%.

Reading list

A set of lecture notes prepared by the lecturer.
Background reading (not mandatory):

  • P.Phillips, "Advanced solid state physics" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

  • A. Altland and B. Simons, "Condensed matter field theory" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010)

  • P. Coleman, "Introduction to many body physics" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2016)

  • P. Nozieres and D. Pines, "Theory of Quantum Liquids"(Avalon publishing, 1999)


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: Prof. Dr. J. Zaanen


Transferable skills

An intellectual skill that is specific for condensed matter physics is associated with the important role of toy models, which are not literal, let alone quantitative, having however the capacity of capturing the essence of emergence phenomena. In addiiton, it is the historic arena where "strong emergence" physics came on the foreground: "the whole is so different from the sum of the parts that the latter are no longer discernable." In the course of time this has taken over all of fundamental physics, e.g. the standard of model of high energy physics is "Ginzburg-Landau with non-Abelian bells and whistles." To learn to handle this is the last reprogramming of the brane required to appreciate the present frontier of physics.