Solid-state physics, the largest branch of condensed matter physics, is the study of rigid matter, or solids. The bulk of solid-state physics theory and research is focused on crystals, largely because the periodicity of atoms in a crystal — its defining characteristic —facilitates mathematical modeling, and also because crystalline materials often have electrical, magnetic, optical, or mechanical properties that can be exploited for engineering purposes. The framework of most solid-state physics theory is the Schrödinger (wave) formulation of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. The most remarkable thing is the great variety of qualitatively different solutions to Schrödinger's equation that can arise. We have insulators, semiconductors, metals, superconductors—all obeying different macroscopic laws: an electric field causes an electric dipole moment in an insulator, a steady current in a metal or semiconductor and a steadily accelerated current in a superconductor. Solids may be transparent or opaque, hard or soft, brittle or ductile, magnetic or non-magnetic. From Solid State Physics by H. E. Hall |