Department of Physics

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Colloquia & Seminars, Spring 2010

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Electromagnetism at Work

Speaker: Professor James A Rabchuk
Date: January 28, 2010 (Thursday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
The physical world is said to be controlled by four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong and the weak nuclear forces. Of these forces, it can be said that electromagnetism is the strongest and best understood. It is the force that holds most material objects together, drives most chemical reactions, propels the flow of information along the internet at nearly light speeds, and is responsible for light itself, to name just a few things. This well-known force, however, continues to provide surprising new applications and present some significant mysteries. In this talk, I would like to address some of the ways in which the phenomenon of electromagnetism is being used in exciting, new applications, such as torque-sensing and ion trapping for use in quantum information processing. I will also speak about one of the more mysterious phenomena in electromagnetic theory, namely, electromagnetic induction. I will outline a non-traditional approach to understanding and teaching induction, as well as a proposed experiment that could test whether this approach is valid.

About the speaker:
Professor James Rabchuk is a professor of physics and the pre-engineering program coordinator at Western Illinois University. His research interests include the study of hydrodynamic stability, analytical and computational study of magnetoelastic materials, and simulations of electric and magnetic fields for ion trapping with applications for quantum computing.

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Magnetoelastic Measurements in High-Speed Steel Torque Transducers

Speaker: Professor Mark S. Boley
Date: January 29, 2010 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
In this presentation, I will attempt to explain the basic physics background and some of the historical development of current magnetoelastic torque sensing technology from the perspective of undergraduate-level physics. The group of measurements that are fundamental to understanding the interplay between the magnetic field and the elastic field in these high-alloy steels will also be discussed, along with an explanation of the instrumentation used. While the initial discussion will center around the macroscopic group of measurements, as time permits we will also consider some of the possible microscopic measurements. Special attention will be given to the many opportunities that this fairly low-budget research provides for both undergraduate and graduate students to develop basic physical measurement and instrumentation skills that are so essential in any research connected to industry.

About the speaker:
Professor Mark S. Bolwy is a professor and the Interim Chair of physics at Western Illinois University. He is a condensed matter experimentalist who uses atomic force/magnetic force microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and magnetoelasticity to study magnetic materials, superconductors and nanomaterials.

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The Physics of Lightning

Speaker: Professor Christopher Fasano
Date: February 4, 2010 (Thursday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Lightning, the massive dielectric breakdown of the atmosphere that occurs during thunderstorms, is a dramatic process that demands study and explanation. The mechanisms that cause lightning and the mechanisms by which lightning proceed are complex and still areas of active study. In fact, understanding lightning is considered one of the great-unsolved problems of atmospheric physics. In this talk, I will discuss our understanding of how lightning forms as well as a particularly intriguing feature of lighting-- the production of X-rays by lightning (verified experimentally only recently). I will also describe a proposal we have made to measure the energy spectrum of natural lightning while recording data on electric field strength and meteorological data. Knowing and understanding this energy spectrum will play an important role in understanding the process by which lightning is produced and proceeds. It will also allow testing of a variety of models that have been suggested for producing lightning and for producing X-rays.

About the speaker:
Professor Christopher Fasano is a professor and the Chair of department of physics, Monmouth College. He is a computational physicist with research interests in the area of scattering and particle production processes in light nuclei. Professor Fasano's current research focuses on modeling of protein folding, severe storms and wind flow.

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Magnetoelastic Measurements in High-Speed Steel Torque Transducers - Part II

Speaker: Professor Mark S. Boley
Date: March 26, 2010 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
In this presentation, I will follow up on my colloquium (1/29/2010) earlier this semester with my explanation of some of the basic physics background and the historical development of current magnetoelastic torque sensing technology from the perspective of undergraduate-level physics. The group of measurements that are fundamental to understanding the interplay between the magnetic field and the elastic field in these high-alloy steels will also be discussed, along with an explanation of the instrumentation used. While the earlier colloquium centered around the macroscopic group of measurements on these samples, I will only briefly review these results in the current presentation and spend the majority of the time in discussion of the microscopic measurements on these samples using the magnetic force microscope (MFM). A brief overview of the principles of MFM will also be presented. Special attention will be given to the many opportunities that this fairly low-budget research provides for both undergraduate and graduate students to develop basic physical measurement and instrumentation skills that are so essential in any research connected to industry.

About the speaker:
Professor Mark S. Bolwy is a professor and the Interim Chair of physics at Western Illinois University. He is a condensed matter experimentalist who uses atomic force/magnetic force microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and magnetoelasticity to study magnetic materials, superconductors and nanomaterials.

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Wind Energy in the USA - Past, Present and Future

Speaker: Professor P. Barry Butler
Date: April 02, 2010 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
A utility-scale wind turbine is a complex mechanical/electrical system designed to extract energy from a widely variable source (i.e., wind), and ultimately deliver clean, well-characterized power to the utility grid. Optimizing the system requires experts from a number of unrelated fields (atmospheric modeling, aerodynamics, power management, conversion and storage, etc.). Technology innovations and market building incentives have helped to dramatically lower costs of wind energy over the past two decades. However, to achieve the Department of Energy's goal of producing 20% of the nation's electricity through wind power by 2030, two major challenges will be i) reducing the capital cost of large turbines, and ii) significantly increasing turbine reliability. To make wind energy more competitive, the industry needs wind energy system designs that can be uniformly relied on to demonstrate consistently high levels of performance under a wide range of operational conditions without being subject to unanticipated failure and with substantially reduced maintenance requirements. This talk will explore present and future technology trends in wind energy production in the USA.

About the speaker:
Professor P. Barry Butler is the Dean of College of Engineering and a Professor in mechanical and industrial engineering at the University of Iowa. He is an expert in thermophysics of condensed-phase energetic materials, multiphase reactive flow, shock physics and thermodynamics of reactive processes. Professor Butler's current research interests are in the areas of ignition phenomena in energetic materials, real-gas thermochemical processes, reaction in supercritical water medium, and detonation of gas and condensed-phase media.

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Diffusion-Driven Self-Organizaton of Novel Structures at the Nanoscale

Speaker: Professor Keppy Roos
Date: April 09, 2010 (Friday)
Time: 4 p.m.
Room: 205 Currens Hall

Abstract
Surface diffusion is an important atomistic process that mediates the formation of nanostructures and thin films at surfaces. It plays a significant role in self-assembly, the tendency of some systems to create order on surfaces without direct external manipulation. Of particular importance for self-assembly is mesoscopic-scale diffusion, defined as the collective contribution from a large number of individual diffusion processes to mass transport in materials systems, that ultimately culminates in the arrangement of material into ordered structures. It is this mesoscopic-scale diffusion that makes self-assembly the only practical method for building ensembles of nanostructures In this talk I will describe the physics behind some of the instruments that are used to probe surface structure on the atomic scale, and then describe a series of experiments tailored to study mesoscopic diffusion fields. If time permits I may describe some details of the continuum model I and my collaborators have developed to describe the experiments.

About the speaker:
Professor Kelly Roos : is a professor of physics at Bradley University, Peoria. Professor Roos is a computational physicist who has made significant contributions to physics education.

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