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Physics Colloquium


Fall 2014 Colloquium Schedule

Date Speaker Title Host
August 25 Bob Svoboda
UC Davis
WATCHMAN: Neutrino Physics and Nuclear Non-Proliferation – Oh . . . Really? Tom Handler
September 8 Jaideep Singh
Michigan State University
Trapping Atoms the "Old-Fashioned" Way: New Results & Opportunities Nadia Fomin
September 15 Peng Xiong
Florida State University
Ultrathin Pb Films in a Magnetic Field: New Physics from an Old Superconductor Haidong Zhou
September 22 Randy Fishman
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Using Inelastic Scattering Measurements to Determine the Complex Spin States of Multiferroic Materials Adolfo Eguiluz
September 29 Michael Duncan
University of Georgia
Infrared Spectroscopy of Cold Ions and their Clusters Robert Compton
October 6 Sean Sun
Johns Hopkins University
The Role of Water in Cell Mechanics, Cell Shape and Cell Motility Jaan Mannik
October 13      
October 20 Yasu Takano
University of Florida
October 27      
November 3 Jeremy Levy
University of Pittsburgh
Etch-a-Sketch Nanoelectronics Steven Johnston
November 10      
November 17      
November 24      
December 1      


August 25, 2014

Bob Svoboda
University of California, Davis

WATCHMAN: Neutrino Physics and Nuclear Non-Proliferation – Oh . . . Really?

Monitoring nuclear non-proliferation treaties is a challenging technological problem. Since the “fast lane” to nuclear weapons is the production of plutonium in small nuclear reactors, an important (but difficult) problem is how to monitor reactors built for research to ensure they are not being used for weapons production. Recent experiments in neutrino physics and dedicated demonstration projects at commercial nuclear plants have shown that it may be possible to use neutrinos to determine the operational cycle of such reactors from moderately distant locations. At the same time, the particle physics community is developing technology that may make such monitoring both feasible and cost effective. The WATCHMAN Project is a collaborative effort between scientists and engineers that will not only advance neutrino detector technology, but also demonstrate the ability to effectively monitor nuclear reactors for weapons production.

September 8, 2014

Jaideep Singh
Michigan State University

Trapping Atoms the "Old-Fashioned" Way: New Results & Opportunities

Inert gases frozen at cryogenic temperatures have been used to trap and study atoms and molecules for over 60 years. In particular, noble gas solids (NGS) are a promising medium for the capture, detection, and manipulation of atoms and nuclear spins. They provide stable, chemically inert, & efficient confinement for a wide variety of guest species. Because NGS are transparent at optical wavelengths, the guest species can be probed using lasers. Longitudinal and transverse nuclear spin relaxation times of a guest species can be made very long under well understood and feasible conditions. Potential applications include measurements of rare nuclear reactions and tests of fundamental symmetries.

In this talk, I will present the results of our optical spectroscopic study of ytterbium atoms embedded in a frozen neon matrix, which includes the first experimental determination of the 23 second lifetime of the metastable atomic state of Yb-171 that is used for next generation atomic clocks. I will conclude with our efforts to demonstrate (1) optical single atom detection for studying rare nuclear reactions and (2) optical pumping of Yb-171 nuclei in solid neon for a test of time-reversal symmetry.

September 15, 2014

Peng Xiong
Florida State University Department of Physics

Ultrathin Pb Films in a Magnetic Field: New Physics from an Old Superconductor

Even in materials where the origin of superconductivity is known to be conventional, dimensional confinement, disorder, electron correlation, external magnetic field, and magnetic impurities often combine to induce novel electronic phases and quantum phase transitions, many of which remain poorly understood and controversial. We have carried out a detailed examination of the superconductivity and superconductor-insulator transitions in ultrathin amorphous Pb films as functions of disorder, magnetic field, and paramagnetic pair-breaking. The Pb films are grown via quench-condensation in a modified dilution refrigerator under ultrahigh vacuum at low temperature, and all the electrical measurements are performed in situ. Here I describe and discuss two intriguing observations from these experiments: i) A perpendicular magnetic field induces features suggestive of mesoscale phase separation near the critical field and an insulating state with localized superconductivity.1 ii) In the same films, a parallel magnetic field is found to enhance superconductivity, increasing the mean-field Tc by as much as 13% in field as high as 8 T. The Tc enhancement is progressively suppressed, eventually eliminated, by incremental deposition of magnetic impurity on the film.2

1. J.S. Parker, D. Read, A. Kumar, and P. Xiong, Europhys. Lett. 75, 950 (2006).
2. H.J. Gardner, A.S. Kumar, L. Yu, P. Xiong, M. Warusawithana, L. Wang, O. Vafek, D.G. Schlom, Nature Physics 7, 895 (2011).

September 22, 2014

Randy Fishman
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Materials Science and Technology Division

Using Inelastic Scattering Measurements to Determine the Complex Spin States of Multiferroic Materials

Because they couple magnetic and electric degrees of freedom, multiferroic materials hold tremendous technological promise and remain the subject of intense scrutiny. In practice, elastic neutron scattering alone is insufficient to determine the complex, non-collinear spin structures of these materials. But inelastic spectra provide dynamical “fingerprints” for the spin states and interactions of multiferroic materials. This is demonstrated for two materials that fall within different classes of multiferroics. Whereas BiFeO3 is a type I multiferroic with the ferroelectric transition temperature Tc higher then the Neel transition temperature TN, CuFeO2 is a type II multiferroic with Tc = TN. Although the spin states of these materials are distorted cycloids or spirals, there are important differences between the two due to the different origins of their multiferroic behavior. Research sponsored by the Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering, U.S. Department of Energy under contract with UT-Battelle, LLC.

September 29, 2014

Michael Duncan, Franklin and Regents Professor
Department of Chemistry, University of Georgia

Infrared Spectroscopy of Cold Ions and their Clusters

Cold cations of metal-molecular complexes or of small hydrocarbons (aka "carbocations") are produced in a pulsed supersonic molecular beam by laser vaporization or pulsed discharge sources. These ions are mass-selected and studied with infrared photodissociation spectroscopy. Infrared spectra are compared to the predictions of theory to elucidate the structures of these ions and, in the case of metals, their electronic states. Transition metal (Co, V, Mn, Cu) carbonyls are studied in the C-O stretching region. The spectra reveal coordination numbers and ligand vibrational shifts as a function of cluster size. Carbocations (C2H3+, C3H5+, C3H3+, protonated benzene, protonated naphthalene) are studied in the C-H stretching and fingerprint regions of the spectrum. Several of these species exhibit more than one structural isomer, allowing investigation of the multiple minima on their potential surfaces. Unusual vibrations are detected for non-classical structures with bridging hydrogens. Protonated naphthalene has spectral lines relevant for the Unassigned Infrared Bands seen in interstellar gas clouds.

October 6, 2014

Sean X. Sun, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Johns Hopkins University

The Role of Water in Cell Mechanics, Cell Shape and Cell Motility

The lipid bilayer membrane of eukaryotic cells is directly permeable to water. Careful volume measurements during osmotic shock experiments show that the cell can actively adjust its volume by adapting to external osmotic shocks. We mathematically analyze cellular pressure and volume control by considering both cytoskeletal dynamics and active regulation of cellular osmotic content. We show that water permeation across the cell membrane is a major contribution to the slow phase of cellular mechanical response. Cell shape changes during division and morphogenesis, and cellular tension homeostasis may also have significant contributions from water dynamics. We demonstrate that water permeation alone can drive cell motility in confined environments. The last finding is significant for cancer cell motility in some situations.

November 3, 2014

Jeremy Levy
Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Director of the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute

Etch-a-Sketch Nanoelectronics

Electronic confinement at nanoscale dimensions remains a central means of science and technology. I will describe a novel method for producing electronic nanostructures at the interface between two normally insulating oxides, LaAlO3 and SrTiO3. Conducting nanostructures are written, erased and reconfigured under ambient conditions at room temperature, similar to the operation of an etch-a-sketch toy. A wide variety of devices can be created, including nanowires, tunnel junctions, diodes, field-effect transistors, single-electron transistors, superconducting nanowires, and nanoscale THz emitters and detectors. After an introduction, I will focus on two recent results: the discovery of a novel phase in which electrons form pairs without becoming superconducting, and the discovery of electronically controlled ferromagnetism at room temperature. Both phenomena occur in the same family of LaAlO3/SrTiO3 heterointerfaces.

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