Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our first thin film obtained with the ALD reactor

Today marks the first successful thin film growth of Titanium Dioxide on Silicon substrate with the new ALD reactor built last summer in Dr. Costel Constantin's lab. This will enable us to grow oxide nanolayers or nanowires on semiconducting surfaces that can be used in building more efficient field effect transistors. A crucial role in this success were the efforts of Matthew Chamberlin, Kristen Deganais (REU student from University of Maryland Baltimore County), Bojan Ljubovic, and Renee Ahern who joined our group at the beginning of this semester. Renee helped a lot with setting up the ALD reactor for several growth attempts preceding today's growth.

... More on radiative polaritons at JMU!

On October 19-22 2011 the 78th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Section of the APS will take place at Virginia Tech. At the event, Anita Vincent-Johnson, undergraduate student in Physics at JMU, will present the results of the study she performed this summer under the guidance of Dr. Giovanna Scarel and in collaboration with Dr. James Hammonds of Howard University in Washington DC. The study investigated computationally and experimentally the dispersion relations of radiative polaritons in thin oxide films. The team was finally able to demonstrate the radiative nature of the polaritons excited in thin oxide films by infrared radiation. These results will have great impact on the ongoing effort of the team to exploit radiative polaritons for harvesting energy from infrared radiation.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Radiative polaritons at JMU!

Today Applied Physics Letter has published a paper reporting the discoveries made by a group of researchers at JMU. The paper is entitled “Heat recovery mechanism in the excitation of radiative polaritons by broadband infrared radiation in thin oxide films”. Anita Vincent-Johnson and John Bridstrup, undergraduate students in Physics, and Kyle Vasquez, who graduated in Chemistry last Spring, worked on the project between Summer 2010 and Summer 2011. Andrew Masters of Custom Thermoelectric (Bishopville - MD) developed the devices. Harry Hu contributed in improving the set up for the measurements. Giovanna Scarel led the team. The hope of the authors is that this research would trigger new work in buildig cells capable to harvest infrared radiation and convert it into electricity. Since infrared radiation is available day and night, the cells should work without interruption.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Superluminal Neutrinos

The paper reporting on the faster than light neutrinos observed at CERN is on the web. It is clear that is not a simple time-of-flight measurement. It is also clear that a tremendous amount of work went into measuring the times and determining the distance.

Fall Picnic

To start off the semester we enjoyed our annual fall picnic on Sunday afternoon September 18. We met at Purcel Park to enjoy the culinary delights grilled up by Costel Constantin. There was much good food brought and soccer for the ambitious.

See the full set of photos here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

JMU in the ALD firmament

On September 20 2011 the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A published the paper “Wetting properties induced in nano-composite POSS-MA polymer films by atomic layer deposited oxides”. The paper reports the work performed by the JMU students Kyle Vasquez and Anita Vincent-Johnson under the guidance of the JMU faculty Chris Hughes, Brian Augustine, and Giovanna Scarel. The JMU team worked in close collaboration with the partners at NCSU: Kyoungmi Lee and Gregory Parsons. This paper will be included in a special issue of JVSTA totally devoted to Atomic Layer Deposition and will introduce JMU in the ALD firmament!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Could relativity be wrong?

From LiveScience
Physicists have found that tiny particles called neutrinos are making a 454-mile (730-kilometer) underground trip faster than they should — more quickly, in fact, than light could do. If the results are confirmed, they could throw much of modern physics into upheaval.

If this is verified, hang on to your hat. The ride will be wild. Overturning the universal speed limit changes everything.

I suggest not betting heavily on this being true.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do basketball like a theoretical physicist

Just in case you thought that theoretical physicists were only occupied with quarks, big bangs, phase changes, and Bose-Einstein condensates...think again. Alan Gabel and S. Redner at the Center for Polymer Studies and Department of Physics, Boston University have made an excellent examination of scoring in basketball. The abstract spells it out:
We present evidence, based on play-by-play data from all 6087 games from the 2006/07–2009/10 seasons of the National Basketball Association (NBA), that basketball scoring is well described by a weakly-biased continuous-time random walk. The time between successive scoring events follows an exponential distribution, with little memory between different scoring intervals. Using this random- walk picture that is augmented by features idiosyncratic to basketball, we account for a wide variety of statistical properties of scoring, such as the distribution of the score difference between opponents and the fraction of game time that one team is in the lead. By further including the heterogeneity of team strengths, we build a computational model that accounts for essentially all statistical features of game scoring data and season win/loss records of each team.
Now you can tell your friends you were studying physics the next time you watch an NBA game on TV.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Department Picnic

The annual Fall PandA picnic is Sunday September 18th at 1:00 PM. As usual, we will be in Purcel Park.

Come join us for the fun.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Matt's first paper has been accepted!

Matthew Chamberlin who worked (really HARD!) with Prof. Costel Constantin since 2010 will publish his first paper in the Material Research Society Symposium Proceedings Journal.

The paper is entitled “Zinc and Zinc Oxide Nanowires Grown on PEDOT:PSS/SiO2 Conductive Polymer Thin Films by Vapor Phase Transport Deposition” and a copy of the paper can be found here. Matt is very intrigued by neuroscience, and I hope this paper will encourage him to apply to graduate schools where he can pursue his dream.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How is Science Done?

We live in extraordinary times. We know that our Universe began with a Big Bang 13.76 billion years ago, plus or minus 0.11 billion years (~1% precision!). We have learned that we really don't know what ~96% of the Universe is made of (i.e., "dark matter" and "dark energy"). We have very strong observational evidence that not only does our own Milky Way Galaxy harbor a supermassive black hole, but that every galaxy has one. Big puzzles remain as to how they grow to their large masses, and why some black holes are active and some are dormant. These scientific results are all a consequence of the scientific method, exemplify how progress is made and our knowledge advanced.

But do all members of our society and media truly understand how science is done and its importance? Indeed, in the last blog entry, we talked about a Physics department in trouble at UNC-W and the need for more physicists. In an intriguing article published online today and making its way around the internet, an astronomer who was part of the team that recently found evidence for a "diamond planet" calls into question whether our society truly understands how science is done and the consequences it has for us. If you have not already read it, I encourage you to do so. You can find the article here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Physics Department in Trouble

The University of North Carolina-Wilmington has announced its plan for dealing with the 15.8% budget cut imposed on it by the state of North Carolina. Part of this is to merge the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography with the department of Geology and Geography to form one department. This will, according to the administration result in the saving of about $80,000/year due to the reduction of one administrator and one staff position.

There is a petition seeking to reverse this decision and you are urged to visit and read what others have said and express your opinion.

We need more rather than less physics in the world. Add you voice to those who are trying to preserve this educational opportunity for the UNC-W students.

Friday, September 02, 2011

What Students Think...

With the start of the new semester, students return to the classroom eager and excited to learn! Well, ok maybe not everyone. Nevertheless, students do walk into our classroom with preconceived notions about how the world works, some of which are just wrong. A classic example is the cause of the seasons, where in survey after survey, a majority of respondents claim the cause of our seasons is the changing Sun-Earth distance (not right!). Curious to learn what my students think when they hear the word "Astronomy", I asked my Astronomy 120 (The Solar System) students to write three words on an index card. The wordle below is the result of this exercise.

Wordle: Astronomy