Faculty Profile

Charles P Slichter

Charles P Slichter
Charles P Slichter

Primary Research Area

  • Condensed Matter Physics


Professor Charles Slichter, internationally recognized in condensed matter physics, is one of the world's top research scientists in the area of magnetic resonance and has been a leading innovator in applications of resonance techniques to understanding the structure of matter. Professor Slichter's deep physical insight and elegant experimental mastery have allowed him to make seminal contributions to an extraordinarily broad range of problems of great theoretical interest and technological importance in physics and chemistry.

Professor Slichter received his A.B. (1946), M.A. (1947), and Ph.D. (1949) degrees from Harvard University, all in physics. During World War II, he worked as a research assistant at the Underwater Explosives Research Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, while an undergraduate at Harvard. He came to the University of Illinois in 1949 as an instructor in physics; he was promoted to assistant professor in 1951, to associate professor in 1954, and to full professor in 1955.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1967, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969, and to the American Philosophical Society in 1971. In 2007, Professor Slichter was awarded the National Medal of Science. He has received the Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics (American Physical Society, 1969), the Triennial Prize (International Society of Magnetic Resonance [ISMAR], 1986), the Comstock Prize (National Academy of Sciences, 1993), and the Oliver E. Buckley Prize in Condensed Matter Physics (American Physical Society, 1996). He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Waterloo in 1993, and an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Harvard University in 1996. In 2010, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Leipzig.

Although he retired from teaching in 1996, Professor Slichter maintains an active research program and remains a vital presence in our department. His textbook, Principles of Magnetic Resonance, now in its third printing, has served as the standard in the field for three and a half decades. He has directed the Ph.D. research of 63 Illinois graduates, a group that is contributing immeasurably to industry and academia.

Tree of Scholarship

Listen to Professor Slichter's talk on NMR and the BCS Theory, presented at the American Physical Society's 2008 March Meeting session on the 50th Anniversary of Physical Review Letters.

Research Statement

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance in Solids

We probe magnetic and electric fields at the atomic level by NMR to study many-body effects, phase transitions, magnetism, solids possessing unusual properties, and electronic and structural aspects of surface atoms and absorbed molecules (including catalysis). Examples: Solids (1) High- temperature superconductors, for which NMR provides detailed information about both the normal and superconducting states. (2) Charge density waves (NMR of NbSe3 ) including study of the motion under applied electric fields. Surfaces (1) Electronic properties of the surface layer of atoms of Pt particles, by 195 Pt NMR. (2) Quantum effects arising from the small size of the metal particles. (3) Bonding and structure of molecules (e.g., CO, C2 H2 ) adsorbed on Pt, by 13C NMR. (4) Special methods: 1H, 13C double resonance to monitor breaking of the C-H bond.

NMR Studies of High-Temperature Superconductors

NMR has proved to be an important tool to study superconductivity. We are investigating the normal and superconducting states of high-temperature superconductors, such as YBa2Cu3O7 or La2-xCuO4, to learn how to describe the normal state, what mechanism leads to superconductivity, and why the transition temperatures are so high. The resonances of 63,65Cu, 17O, 89Y, 135,137Ba permit NMR to probe specific atomic sites (e.g., Cu nuclei in the CuO2 planes).

Research Professor of Physics and Center for Advanced Study Emeritus Professor of Physics and of Chemistry

  • His measurements with Hebel of nuclear relaxation in superconductors gave the first proof of the correctness of the pairing concept of the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of superconductivity.
  • With Schumacher, he measured for the first time the electron spin contribution to the magnetic susceptibility of metals, providing an important test of many body corrections to the Pauli theory.
  • He was a pioneer in application of electron nuclear double resonance to the study of defects in insulating crystals.
  • He was a pioneer in the discovery and use of satellite NMR of host atoms near magnetic atoms in dilute alloys to elucidate the Kondo effect.
  • With Henry he developed the method of moments for the analysis of the effect of magnetic fields or applied stresses on the optical spectra of defects in crystals.
  • He made the first measurements of the spin-flip scattering cross section of conduction electrons from atoms in metals.
  • He pioneered study of charge density waves in solids, using NMR to confirm McMillan's concept of discommensurations and demonstrating the motion of charge density waves under the action of applied electric fields.
  • With his students he has made extensive studies of cuprate high temperature superconductors, characterizing the electron state of the Cu, discovering the indirect coupling between Cu atoms and showing than it gave information about the real part of the electron spin susceptibility.
  • With his students, he showed that in the cuprate superconducting state, the electrons form spin singlet pairs.
  • With his students, he gave substantial early evidence from spin lattice and spin-spin relaxation times of Cu and O nuclei that the superconducting orbital pairing could not be s state and was probably d-state. This work was one of the first indications that the conventional BCS pairing did not hold for the cuprates.

Magnetic Resonance Methods

  • A pioneer of double resonance, with Carver he performed the first electron-nuclear double resonance, and the first observation of dynamic polarization of nuclei, proving the correctness of Overhauser's theory.
  • He developed the concept of the relaxation rate in the "rotating frame" T, enabling him to extend by orders of magnitude the range of motion rates in solids measurable by NMR.
  • He showed, using the concept of spin temperature, how to solve otherwise intractable problems such as calculation of spin-lattice relaxation in zero applied field, calculation of T in the slow motion regime, and for analysis of nuclear-nuclear double-resonance.
  • With Spokas, he introduced phase coherent NMR detection of pulsed NMR, making possible detection of NMR signals much weaker than noise. All modern NMR equipment employs phase coherent detection.


  • With Gutowsky and McCall, he was co-discoverer of the indirect spin-spin (J)coupling in molecules a key tool for chemists determining structure of molecules. This discovery led to the RKKY theory of coupling in solids.
  • His theory of chemical shifts of 19 F nuclei gave the first explanation of why atoms with p or d bonding electrons have such large chemical shifts.
  • He gave the first detailed theory the effect of rate processes on NMR spectra, now widely used to study chemical rate processes in liquids.

Surface Physics and Chemistry

  • With his students and in collaboration with Sinfelt, he discovered the NMR line of the surface layer of atoms in metals, using small clusters (20-40 Å… site) of Pt supported on Al2O3 and SiO2. He established the electronic characteristics of these materials, which are catalysts for many important chemical reactions.
  • In collaboration with Sinfelt, he and his group made the first NMR determination of the structure of simple molecules (CO, C2H2, C2H4) adsorbed on these Pt surfaces, studying their bonding to the surfaces, their breakup under heating, measuring the existence of and diffusion rate of isolated C atoms in the surfaces. They also determined the rate of H and D exchange between adsorbed molecules and the surface as well as between the support and the surface.

Selected Articles in Journals


  • Doctor of Science, University of Leipzig, 2010
  • National Medal of Science (2007)
  • APS Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1996)
  • DOE Prize for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishments in Solid State Physics (1993)
  • DOE Sustained Outstanding Research in Solid State Physics by the U. S. DOE's Div. of Materials Science (1984, 1992)
  • Tau Beta Pi Daniel C. Drucker Award (1989)
  • Natl. Academy of Science, Comstock Prize Recipient (1993)
  • Triennial Prize of the Intl. Soc. of Magnetic Resonance (1986)
  • American Physical Society Langmuir Prize (1969)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellow (1955-61)
  • American Philosophical Society, Member (1971)
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Member (1969)
  • National Academy of Sciences, Member (1967)
  • Sigma Xi member
  • Phi Beta Kappa member
  • International Paramagnetic Resonance Society, Fellow
  • Intl. Society President 1987-90
  • Intl. Society Vice President 1983-86
  • Intl. Society of Magnetic Resonance
  • American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, Fellow
  • American Physical Society, Fellow
  • Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.), Harvard University, 1996
  • Doctor of Science, University of Waterloo, 1993