Rutgers Center for Emergent Materials


The Rutgers Center for Emergent Materials supports inter-institutional collaborative research programs on scientifically important and technologically relavent materials among Rutgers University, NJIT and industrial laboratories throughout New Jersey. RCEM also fosters interdisciplinary education for postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students as well as high school students.

Latest news



  • 12Dec

    Nature Physics Cover Article:
  • "Topological defects as relics of emergent continuous symmetry and Higgs condensation of disorder in ferroelectrics"
  • It is often said that an open mind can see a universe in a drop of water. In science, a poetic phrase sometimes becomes reality. In our work, we were able to study the laws governing such disparate phenomena as evolution of the early Universe, superfluidity, and exotic superconductivity in a piece of a solid material called manganite. Our samples are ferroelectric, i.e. they exhibit spontaneous electric polarization that might vary from place to place, breaking the samples into domains. The domains can organize into topological entities called vortices (similar to a vortex in a liquid). Such topological entities form in cosmological structures, in particle physics, and in solids. They are governed by a similar "universal" law, and a study of a ferroelectric, for example, can elucidate the characteristics of the early Universe.

    Topological vortices are often elusive and difficult to study (think the early Universe). We have discovered an ingenious and effective way of freezing and subsequently imaging the topological vortices in ferroelectric manganites, and studied the dynamics associated with their formation. We found that it is in close agreement with the well-known Kibble-Zurek mechanism, which was developed to describe topological defects such as monopoles or cosmic strings that influence the evolution of the early Universe.

    Even if a single phenomenon is chosen from the proverbial drop of water, it can be seen differently by different people. A flock of flying geese can be also viewed as a school of fish in an M. C. Escher's artwork. Such "duality" has fascinated people for centuries. In our studies, we constructed such a dual vision of the vortices in our ferroelectric sample, and tested it in experiments. We described the same phenomena using the language of emergence of the ferroelectric order at low temperatures (one description), and also in the language of condensation of the disorder associated with vortices taking over the sample, spanning their entire length, and destroying the order (the dual description). Thus, one event was seen from two entirely different sides - the order and the disorder sides - as also often found in the works of art. Not surprisingly, such a broadened view allows seeing more: the vortices in our samples, exotic superfluids, and even the recently discovered Higgs boson (an elementary particle) can be described in a similar language. Studying one therefore means understanding another. Quite a feat for an unassuming little chunk of solid matter called manganite!

                                                                                                                  --Sang-Wook Cheong and Valery Kiryukhin, Rutgers

  • For more reading: Ferroelectrics in a twist



    • 12Aug

      Professor Sang-Wook Cheong among "The Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014"
    • Sang Wook-Cheong is listed by Thomson-Reuters as among "The Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014." This list, which is comprised of 21 field of science and is available at, notes: "Highly Cited Researchers 2014 represents some of world's leading scientific minds ... researchers earned the distinction by writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated by Essential Science Indicators as Highly Cited Papers - ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication, earning them the mark of exceptional impact."
    • Sang-Wook notes that his former PhD student, Yew San Hor, currently an assistant professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology, is also on the list.