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theSpectr m VOLUME 4 ISSUE 01 / 2012

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH: Department of Physics & Astronomy

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Next Generation Materials Research Center at the University of Utah

Black Holes What Do They Grow?

New Visitor Center For Cosmic Ray Education


You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Lasers

Utah Physicists Invent ‘Spintronic’ LED



4 Awards, Grants & Appointments

22 Utah Physicists Invent ‘Spintronic’ LED

6 Int’l Summer Research Exchange

24 Department “Quarks”

D. Kieda & B. Saam, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy

7 Alumni Spotlight 12 $21.5 Million for Materials Research 14 How Black Holes Grow 17 The Role of Particle Morphology

Alia P. Schoen, Materials Research Society

18 A ‘Dirt Cheap’ Magnetic Field Sensor from ‘Plastic Paint’ 20 University Awarded $1 Million by Keck Foundation to Study Cosmic Rays

26 5 Tricks You Didn’t Know You Could do with Lasers

Adam Beehler, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy

28 Mars Rover Curiosity Makes Safe Landing on Red Planet

Sheena McFarland, The Salt Lake Tribune

29 Cosmic Ray Research Group Opens Visitor Center 30 2011-2012 Graduates 31 A New Day is Dawning for Astronomers

David Harris, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy





Hello Friends, Welcome to the Fall 2012 edition of Spectrum, the newsletter of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah. In this edition, we are pleased to highlight the growth of the various research, teaching, and public outreach programs in our department. Key developments include the creation of the six-year, $20 million NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), led by Profs. Valy Vardeny and Brian Saam of our Department, and the recent $1 million Keck Foundation Award to Prof. John Belz for development of a novel radio detection technique for high energy cosmic rays. The department has welcomed two new tenure-track faculty members in Condensed Matter Research; Prof. Dimytro Pesin (University of Texas Austin, Theoretical Condensed Matter) and Prof. Vikram Deshpande (Columbia University, Experimental Condensed Matter). The department facilities have undergone major renovations, including a rebuild of the JFB Rotunda lecture halls, renovations to the second floor library, and addition of a $750k five-axis CNC machining center to the research facilities. The department also has increased its outreach to the general community through public science events centered upon the annular Solar eclipse, the transit of Venus across the sun, and the recent landing of the rover `Curiosity’ on Mars. During Fall 2012 homecoming weekend, the department had the privilege of hosting a group of seven Ph.Ds who had graduated from the department in the 1960’s. It was a pleasure to show our visitors around the department, and sponsor a lunch-time reunion with several of their faculty mentors. At the same time, I enjoyed hearing stories of people and departmental history from well before my arrival in the department, and the major impact our department had made on the nation and world through their subsequent academic and scientific careers. During the next few years, we will work to increase connections with all of our former students, and we hope this newsletter will encourage you to write to us and tell us what you have been up to. We also welcome you to plan a visit to the department, reunite with your colleagues, and see all the growth and changes that have occurred. Our departmental `home’ will always be open to you! With Best Regards,

Dave Kieda


Kathrine Skollingsberg

The Spectrum is the official newsletter of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah. The Spectrum seeks to provide friends, students, alumni, and the community at large with a broad spectrum of up-todate information on news, events, achievements, and scientific education relating to the department. Story suggestions, upcoming events, and comments always welcome. Contact us at newsletter@ SPECIAL NOTE: Due to an issue with our subscriptions, some people may be receiving this newsletter in error. If you have previously requested to be taken off the mailing list for this newsletter, please send an email to newsletter@physics.utah. edu and include the full name listed on the mailing label. © 2012 University of Utah





COLLEGE OF SCIENCE 2012 Equity & Diversity Award

PIERRE SOKOLSKY Dean, College of Science. Promoted to the rank of Distinguished Professor of Physics & Science.



OLEG STARYKH NSF Division of Materials Research Award Promotion: Full Professor (2012) do?AwardNumber=1206774

AWARDS, GRANTS & APPOINTMENTS Our world-class faculty are renowned scholars, recognized both nationally & internationally for their research achievements.






JORDAN GERTON Cottrell Scholar Collaboration Award 2014 International Conference on Near Field Optics, Nanophysics & Related Techniques Promotion: Tenured Associate Professor (2011)

TABITHA BUEHLER, KYLE DAWSON, WAYNE SPRINGER & ANIL SETH W.L. Eccles Foundation grant for Education & Public Outreach associated with the South Physics & the Willard Eccles Observatories

VIKRAM DESHPANDE New Assistant Professor in Experimental Condensed Matter. Joins the department in January 2013 from Columbia University



MIKHAIL RAIKH Outstanding Referee: APS

DMYTRO PESIN New Assistant Professor in TheoreticalCondensed Matter. Joined the department in August, 2012 from the University of Texas, Austin


ZHENG ZHENG NSF Astronomical Sciences Research Award do?AwardNumber=1208891




Piloted With Students From Jazan University, Saudi Arabia by David Kieda & Brian Saam,,

A Telescope Array cosmic ray detector station (Delta, Utah) surrounded by the visiting Jazan University Saudi students, Dr. Mohammed Al Seady of Jazan University (right center), and Prof. John Matthews of the University of Utah Cosmic Ray Research group (right).


rof. David Kieda, Chair of the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah, and Prof. Brian Saam, head of the Organic Spintronics Materials Research Center at the University of Utah, have been working with one of their department’s Ph.D graduates, Mohammed Al-Seady (now professor at Jazan University), to develop a scientific and cultural exchange program with Jazan University (Jazan University), Saudi Arabia. In February 2012, Profs. Kieda and Saam visited Jazan University to explore potential common interests in the establishment of a faculty- and student-exchange agreement. The long-term goals of the exchange program are to enable Jazan University students to enroll at the University of Utah and pursue graduate degrees in mathematics, science, and engineering as well as immersive study of the English language. The joint exchange agreement will eventually allow direct faculty and student exchanges with Jazan University, thereby providing the University of Utah community first-hand experiences in the culture, academic structure, and politics of the Saudi kingdom. During Summer 2012, a pilot project of the exchange agree-


ment was carried out by Dr. Tino Nyawelo of the University of Utah Center for Science and Math Education. Dr. Al-Seady accompanied five undergraduate physics students from Jazan University on a fiveweek summer research experience in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. During the visit, the students spent mornings taking intensive language classes at the University of Utah English Language Institute, and spent afternoons attending lectures, working in research labs and completing training projects in the Department’s student machine shop, optoelectronic materials and nano-fabrication facilities. The pilot research program marked the first time the Jazan University students had left their home country, and it exposed them to a wide range of new scientific and cultural experiences. In the evenings and weekends, the Jazan University students and mentors explored Salt Lake City and Park City, and visited the Telescope Array cosmic ray research project, near the rural town of Delta, Utah (see image).

The Saudi government has set a long-term goal of raising the technological literacy of its citizens to prepare them for the development of a future technology-based economy in the kingdom. During the past five years, the kingdom has been investing heavily in the construction and development of major regional universities serving the general population, and in the establishment of new research and cultural ties with Western society. It is anticipated that during the 2012-2013 academic year, a delegation of faculty members from Jazan University, including the President of Jazan University and the Dean of the College of Science, will visit the University of Utah to continue to develop and expand the pilot exchange agreement. Drs. Kieda, Saam, and Nyawelo also anticipate visiting Jazan University with a wider delegation of University of Utah faculty members during Spring 2013 to consider expanding the exchange agreement to include graduate students and faculty in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. The exchange agreement may also include involvement of Jazan University faculty in ongoing research projects at the University of Utah.




Pictured, department alumni with their wives. From left to right: Jake Wolfson, Paul Kingsbury, John Strozier, Roland Marshall, Ron Galli, Chairman Dave Kieda, John Page, Sook-il Kwon, Russ Johnson, William Silfvast.


n September 13, 2012, the Department of Physics & Astronomy in partnership with the College of Science, hosted a reunion of sorts for several of the department’s accomplished alumni. The alums came from Korea, New York, Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and Ogden Utah, to reunite with former advisors and reminisce on old times in the department. The alums attended Prof. Pearl Sandick’s Higgs Boson talk, and participated in one of our public Star Parties on the roof of the South Physics Building. The College of Science also held a reception in their honor. On the following pages, career summaries of each of these alums is listed, as provided by Dr. William Silfvast. 7


J. Ronald Galli

Dr. Galli started as a Physicist at the Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake, California in 1958 and 1959. He received his Ph.D in Physics in 1963. His thesis title was “The Effect of Hydrostatic Pressure on the Ductile-Brittle Transition in Molybdenum”, under the direction of Prof. Peter Gibbs. Also in 1963, he was a Physicist with the Aerojet General Corp., in Downey, California, and he became a professor of physics at Weber State University. Photo credit: WSU Dr. Galli served as the physics department chairman at Weber State twice, first from 1964-1970, and then again from 1983-1994. In 1994, he was called to the position of Dean of the College of Science at Weber State University, which he held until 2003. Dr. Galli is currently a Professor of Physics at Weber State University. Galli’s research interests were Optics, Electronics, High Pressure Physics, and Fracture Dynamics. Currently his research is based on Rotational Dynamics (“Galli Cat”), and Special Relativity. In the future, Dr. Galli’s research will focus around Principles of Relativistic Photon Refraction. Dr. Galli is also the inventor of the “Galli Cat” demonstration on Rotational Dynamics, which can be seen here:

Paul D. Kingsbury

Dr. Kingsbury received his Ph.D in Physics in 1968 under the direction of Professor William D. Ohlsen. The title of his thesis was “An Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Study of n-Type Rutile.”

After graduate school he joined the research and development staff of Corning Glass Works (now Corning Inc.), where he remained until he retired in 1994. While there he held positions of Senior Scientist, Project Leader, Supervisor, Senior Research Associate and, for the final five years, Manager, Physical Properties Research Department. During his employment at Corning, he was involved in the following projects: 1. Studied and explained the long-term stability characteristics of Corning’s thin-film tin oxide resistor product and identified solutions to MIL-SPEC failures. 2. Studied and helped to explain stability properties of


3. 4.

5. 6.



experimental catalytic materials required to meet Kennedy-Muskie 1975-6 automobile emissions standards. Developed and delivered an Yttria-stabilized zirconia oxygen sensor prototype for automotive use. Was a key contributor to the chemical composition of the upgraded photochromic ophthalmic product Photogray Extra (1978) and was the project leader in the development of various colors of Photogray Extra sunglasses. As project leader, he delivered 6,000 prototype photochromic sunroofs for Cadillac automobiles. Was the leader of team that designed and delivered prototype aspheric lenses to Matsuchita for its new disk-player product (1980s). These lenses were characterized by a seventeen milliwave RMS wavefront error over the entire lens surface. Led a project that developed a process for using a glass-ceramic material in dental restorations (mostly crowns). This process was subsequently commercialized. The above primary, long-term technical endeavors were interspersed with many forays into solving technical and production problems encountered by the various divisions of Corning, as well as with stints in supervisory and management positions.

He was awarded an “Individual Outstanding Contributor Award” by the CEO of Corning for his work in using glass-ceramic materials in dental restorations.

Sook-Il Kwun

Dr. Sook-Il Kwun received his Ph.D in Physics in 1965 under the direction of Professor Henry Eyring. The title of his thesis was “The Effect of Sigma-bond Deformation Upon Ionization of Polyphenyl Molecules”.

After graduation he was a Research Associate at the University of Chicago Physics Department from 1965 to 1966. At that point he joined the faculty of Seoul National University where he later attained the rank of Professor. From 1973-1974 he was a Visiting Professor at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. From 1978-1979 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Southern California. In 1989-1991 he became Dean of Research Affairs at Seoul National University. From 1991-1993 he served as Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at Seoul National University. From 1997-1998 he was the Minister of Science and Technology for the Government of Korea. He is presently Professor Emeritus of

During his career he engaged in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics. He used electrical, thermal, and optical measurements to study the physical properties of ferroelectric materials. He specifically worked on phase transition problems, commensurate-incommensurate phase transitions, dipole glasses of ferroelectric-anti-ferroelectric mixed crystals, multiferroics, etc. He published more than 150 papers in the academic journals including Phys. Rev. Lett., Phys. Rev. B, Applied Phys. Lett., Rev. Sci. Instr., Solid State Comm., Ferroelectrics. From 1995-1997 he served as President of the Korean Physical Society. He was elected to the Membership of the Korean National Academy of Sciences in 2002. In 1988 he received the Best Paper Award from the Korean Physical Society. In 2000 he received the Excellent Achievement Award from the President of Korea. In 2003 he received the Blue Stripes Order of Service Merit from the President of Korea. And in 2003 and 2008 he received Contribution Awards from the Korean Physical Society and the Korean Academy of Science.

Ronald L. Marshall

Dr. Marshall received his PhD in physics in 1967 under the direction of Professor William D. Ohlsen. His thesis title was “An EPR Investigation of Irradiation-Induced Damage Centers in Calcite.” In 1966 he became an Assistant Professor of Physics at Cleveland State University where he taught undergraduate physics and worked at NASA – Lewis during the summer from 1966 to 1970.

In 1970 he joined the Operations Research staff at the General Telephone & Electronics Corporation (now Verizon) in Tampa, Florida as Manager of Operations Research (publications in simulation and dynamic programming). In 1978 he became Manager of Corporate Planning where he was involved in developing and implementing General Telephone & Electronics Corporation’s corporate strategy and also involved in corporate acquisitions. In 1985 he moved to the University of Mississippi as the Founding Director of The Ole Miss Center for Telecommunications. In 1987 he became Dean of the University College of the Florida Institute of Technology where he had general management responsibility for approximately 1500 off-campus graduate students, mostly military, government contractors and gov-

ernment civilian employees. The programs offered included management, administration, space systems, electrical engineering, systems management, computer science, computer information systems, mechanical engineering, operations research, logistics, and contracts and acquisition management. He also led the development of Florida Tech’s online programs which now enroll several thousand students. He is presently Dean Emeritus at the Florida Institute of Technology. During his time at the General Telephone & Electronics Corporation he received an award from the CEO for work done in redefining the mission and organization of General Telephone & Electronics Corporation’s data processing organization. While at the Florida Institute of Technology he received commendation from the regional accreditation body (SACS) for the quality of his programs and the quality of procedures in effect controlling all of the Florida Institute of Technology’s off-campus programs. Also while at the Florida Institute of Technology he was appointed by Governor Bush to the Florida State Board of Independent Colleges and Universities. His term for that appointment expired in 2001.

William T. Silfvast

Dr. Silfvast received his Ph.D in Physics with a minor in Mathematics in 1965. His thesis title was “High Gain Laser Action in the Neutral Spectrum of Lead” under the direction of Professor Grant R. Fowles.

He spent a postgraduate year at the University of Utah doing laser research with Dr. Fowles and Dr. Edward M. Eyring of the Chemistry Department. During both the Photo credit: CREOL, UCF time prior to receiving his degree and during the subsequent postdoctoral year he discovered a number of new lasers including the well-known blue He-Cd laser. While at Utah he was awarded a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship by the National Science Foundation to spend a year doing laser research at the University of Oxford in England with Professor John Sanders (1966-67). From 1967 to 1989 he was a Member of the Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories where he carried out pioneering work in the fields of metal vapor lasers, recombination lasers, photoionization-pumped lasers, laser plasmas, and Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography sources. In 1990 he joined the faculty of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where he was a Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering as well as a member of the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL).



Physics at Seoul National University. From 2002 to present he is also Chair Professor of Physics at Myongji University in Korea.


During that time he conducted research in EUV sources for micro-lithography and also served as Chair of the Department of Physics from 1994-1997. In 1999 he became a Professor of Optics at the newly created College of Optics where he is presently Emeritus Professor of Optics. In addition to his NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford University in 1966-67 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to spend a year at Stanford University in 1982-83. He was made a Distinguished Member of The Technical Staff at Bell Labs in 1983. In 1990 he received the 2000 University Distinguished Researcher Award of the University of Central Florida. Professor Silfvast is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has authored more than 100 technical papers as well as numerous invited talks and papers and several book chapters, and holds more than 30 patents. He has published both a first edition (1996) and a second edition (2004) of a book entitled “Laser Fundamentals” with Cambridge University Press as well as a book entitled “Selected Papers on the Fundamentals of Lasers” published by the SPIE Press (1993). In 2010, in recognition of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser, he was selected as one of 27 ‘Laser Luminaries’ (laser pioneers) honored for significant early discoveries.

John Page

Dr. Page eceived his Ph.D in Physics in 1966 under the direction of Professor B. Gale Dick. His dissertation title was “Theory of the Sidebands in the Infrared Spectrum of U-Centers in Alkali Halides.”

He spent a postdoctoral year and a half at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Frankfurt in Germany under Professor H. Bilz. He was then at the Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Photo credit: ASU Physics, Cornell University, from January 1968 to August 1969, on a Cornell Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics fellowship under Professor J. A. Krumhansl.

4. Analytic and numerical studies of a novel class of localized vibrational excitations in strongly anharmonic perfect lattices at large amplitudes. (No static symmetry breaking such as defects or disorder is needed for this “dynamical localization.”) Extensions to systems as diverse as optically driven lattices of dipole rotors and quasi-1D lattices of Josephson junctions subject to applied DC currents reveal a wide variety of fascinating behavior, including localized chaos. 5. Collaborative studies of the structural, dynamical and electronic properties of fullerene molecules and solids, namely C60 “buckyballs” and larger fullerenes, molecules and crystals formed from polymerically joined C60s, and carbon nanotubes. Large-scale ab-initio quantum molecular dynamics simulations were carried out, and the results were compared with experiments, primarily infrared absorption and Raman scattering. During his career he held visiting faculty appointments at several institutions including the University of Utah; Technical University of Munich; Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart; Cornell, where he taught graduate solid state physics and conducted research during a leave of absence from Arizona State University; University of Regensburg, Germany, and Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, Dresden. He published over 100 research papers in refereed physics and chemical physics journals, plus invited book chapters reviewing several topics, e.g. many-body theory of resonance Raman scattering by biomolecules, unusual anharmonic localized excitations in lattices, first-principles studies of fullerene polymer systems, and vibrational spectroscopy of C60. He also gave numerous invited lectures at international conferences. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1990, received the Humboldt Research Award for Senior US Scientists in 1991 (which included a full year’s support at the Univ. of Regensburg), and received the Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts Teaching Award in 1988.

John Strozier

In 1969 he joined the Physics faculty at Arizona State University where he attained the rank of Professor in 1980. He retired in 2004 and is presently Emeritus Professor of Physics.

Dr. Strozier received his Ph.D in 1966 under the direction of Professor B. Gale Dick. His thesis title was “A Calculation of the Electronic Properties of the F’ Center.”

His research involved several areas of theoretical condensed matter and molecular physics: 1. Phonon and electron-phonon properties of perfect and defect crystals. 2. Development of nonzero temperature many-body techniques for the theory of resonance Raman scattering by complex biomolecular systems. 3. Optical properties of disordered and composite media.

After a postdoctoral year at the University of Utah, he spent another postdoctoral year at the Cornell Department of Material Science with Prof. Che-Yu Li and then moved on to SUNY Stony Brook as an Associate Research Professor and (1974-78) as a Research Physicist at Brookhaven


He held visiting faculty appointments at Arizona State University Dept. of Physics during the summer of 1972, as Faculty Research Associate and SUNY Stony Brook in the summer of 1983, and spent two sabbaticals plus 2 to 3 months/year at the University of Houston, Department of Physics from 1984 to 2006. During his career, his research activities included: 1. Calculation of electronic/optical properties of F’ color centers and L bands of KCl. 2. LEED (Low Energy Electron diffraction) theory, calculations, and experiment on various crystalline surfaces. 3. Development of computer controlled data acquisition systems: a) crystal growth in UHV via molecular beams. b) LEED data of crystals grown in UHV with transmission to large main-frame computers via telephone. This work led to the formation of a small company that sold 14 units world-wide. c) Ultrasound detection of flaws in aircraft tires. 4. Theory of late stage sintering of an array of rods by viscous flow. 5. Experiment and theory of the catalysis of (a) the kinetics of CO oxidation on Pt, (b) reactive etching of W surface with XeF2 and (c) island formation of Al on Graphite. 6. Experiment and theory of MBE (molecular beam epitaxy) growth of InSb and CdTe; in particular on stepped surfaces. 7. Experimental studies of chaos (nonlinear dynamics) relating to optical measurements on vortices in liquids. 8. Theory and experiment of the optical properties of MBE-grown disordered GaAs/AlAs. 9. Member of the Wake Shield Facility team. The WSF flew on 3 NASA Space Shuttle Flights growing crystals in space using MBE. During the flights, he characterized the real-time growth of the crystals using high energy electron diffraction. 10. Development of a teaching concept involving problem solving by trial and error. 11. Theory and experiment on electrical pulse-induced resistance change in perovskite oxide thin films. 12. Development of a computational theory of consciousness, and an attempt at resolution of the subjective, objective dichotomy (ongoing). He received the Excellence in Scholarship Award from Empire State College, SUNY in 1990. ••••• We love to hear from our alumni. If you are an alumni and would like to tell us about your achievements since graduation, or even arrange a visit of the department, please contact us at

C. Jacob Wolfson

Dr. Wolfson received his Ph.D in 1966 under the direction of Professor Haven Bergeson. His thesis title was “High-Energy Meson Production Implications from Observing the Cosmic Ray Lunar Shadow.” After graduation, he joined the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory in 1966 and is still employed there on a half-time basis as an advisor.

He began his employment at Lockheed doing research. Then he gradually moved to Management and then to Advisor, being the Program Manager of several payloads along the way. His initial position was with a Neutron Multiplicity Monitor program with the monitor primarily stationed at an elevation of 12,500 feet in the White Mountains of California, with excursions to other high mountains, as well as observations via an airplane and a ship. This program demonstrated that by measuring the multiplicity of neutrons created by cosmic rays rather than just the intensity, as was being done by other neutron monitors, one could determine their energy distribution and thus increase the understanding of how space weather affected the observations. Funding expired for the program after several years and he joined a newly emerging group doing solar physics research from space. Initially the group obtained data from sounding rockets launched out of White Sands, NM beginning in 1968, and then via a series of satellite payloads including OSO-8 (1975), SMM (1980), Spacelab-2 (1985), Yohkoh (1991), SOHO (1996), TRACE (1998), Hinode (2006), STEREO (2006), SDO (2010), and IRIS (2013); where the launch dates are indicated. SOHO, Hinode, STEREO, and SDO are presently on orbit and IRIS will launch early next year. The pioneering payloads/instruments, with ever improving spectral, spatial, and temporal resolution, covered wavelengths from X-rays to the visible where he was primarily involved in EUV and X-Ray regions. Results from these programs have greatly improved the understanding of the solar atmosphere and its very dynamic behavior, including the role of the magnetic field in providing the energy for phenomena such as flares and Coronal Mass Ejections as well as the fine-structure of the global coronal phenomena. The vast majority of solar imagery that is fairly commonly seen in the press nowadays (with the increased interest in Space Weather) has come from these satellites. His group has been one of the leading solar physics groups in the world for the last 40 years. He was a recipient of the Lockheed Martin NOVA Award in June 1995, the highest technical award given by Lockheed Martin. He has also received various other awards from NASA and Lockheed Martin.



National Lab. He then joined the faculty as a Professor of Math Science and Technology at Empire State College/SUNY from 1979-2003 where he is now Professor Emeritus. He is also currently a Lecturer there, teaching an on-line course that he designed called “Minds and Machines.”

theSpectrum A laser in an electrical engineering lab at the University of Utah, which has won a $12 million National Science Foundation grant to launch a $21.5 million basic research program aimed at developing new materials for such uses as faster computers and communications devices and better micro scopes and solar cells. Photo Credit: Nathan Weston, University of Utah.





University Of Utah Gets $12 Million from Prestigious Federal Program


efficient computers, displays and communications, as well as better solar cells, says Valy Vardeny, distinguished professor of physics and associate director of the new center.

The new Center of Excellence in Materials Research and Innovation is being established and funded for six years by a $12 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), $6.5 million for major equipment from the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative and $3 million from the University of Utah.

“These are very promising materials,” Vardeny says. “If we can understand their electronic, magnetic and spintronic properties, they can be fabricated far less expensively than standard silicon electronics, and can be engineered with an enormous variety of other favorable characteristics, for example, as lightweight, flexible displays, or with resistance to harsh chemicals or extreme temperature.”

he University of Utah is launching a six-year, $21.5 million effort to conduct basic research aimed at developing new materials for uses ranging from faster computers and communications devices to better microscopes and solar cells.

The coveted NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center grants are obtained only by the nation’s best research universities, says Anil Virkar, director of the new center and a University of Utah distinguished professor and chair of materials science and engineering. “At the federal agency level, this is about the most prestigious award possible,” Virkar says. “Securing a grant of this size and scope really inaugurates our academic membership in the Pac-12.” Other universities included in the new round of NSF materials research grants include Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Northwestern and Michigan. The new Utah center involves more than two dozen researchers from seven departments in the College of Science, College of Engineering and College of Mines and Earth Sciences. The NSF says the new University of Utah center will focus on “next-generation materials for plasmonics and spintronics.”. “We are among the world leaders in these two fields,” Virkar says. The center’s two interdisciplinary research groups will focus on those areas: Physicist Brian Saam will lead the organic spintronics research effort, which will work on developing organic semiconductors that can be used to carry and store information not only electronically by exploiting the electrons in atoms, but also “spintronically” by using a characteristic of electrons and atoms known as spin. Organic semiconductors are aimed at developing faster, more

Electrical engineer Ajay Nahata will lead the plasmonic metamaterials research team. Plasmonics involves using light that propagates in the interface between a metal and nonmetal. A metamaterial is a material that is structured artificially by etching, drilling, milling or other methods, thus allowing engineers to manipulate how various wavelengths of light propagate on the surfaces of such materials. Plasmonics can allow tighter focusing than is possible using conventional microscopes, which may lead to better microscopic methods for biologists, Nahata says. The plasmonic metamaterials team also will study the potential of uncommonly used wavelengths, such as terahertz radiation, to develop faster devices for use in future communication and computing systems. Virkar says the kind of basic research conducted at the new center contributes to a crucial broad base of knowledge, and produces the kind of discoveries that lead to major technological revolutions, new practical applications and the new frontiers of research. He says that the long-term commitment for the center also will allow the basic research to mature into applications, devices, intellectual property and even start-up companies. In addition to training university graduate and undergraduate students, the new center will include outreach programs dealing with its research to K-12 students and teachers, says mechanical engineer Debra Mascaro, the center’s education and outreach director. “We will also actively recruit students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty with a goal of providing equal opportunities to underrepresented groups.”





Evidence Indicates They Eat Binary Star Partners


study led by a University of Utah astrophysicist found a new explanation for the growth of supermassive black holes in the center of most galaxies: they repeatedly capture and swallow single stars from pairs of stars that wander too close. Using new calculations and previous observations of our own Milky Way and other galaxies, “we found black holes grow enormously as a result of sucking in captured binary star partners,” says physics and astronomy Professor Ben Bromley, lead author of the study, which is set for online publication April 2 in Astrophysical Journal Letters. “I believe this has got to be the dominant method for growing supermassive black holes,” he adds. “There are two ways to grow a supermassive black hole: with gas clouds and with stars. Sometimes there’s gas and sometimes there is not. We know that from observations of other galaxies. But there are always stars.” “Our mechanism is an efficient way to bring a star to a black hole,” Bromley says. “It’s really hard to target a single star at a black hole. It’s a lot easier to throw a binary at it,” just as it’s more difficult to hit a target using a slingshot, which hurls a single stone, than with a bola, which hurls two weights connected by a cord. A binary pair of stars orbiting each other “is essentially a single object much bigger than the size of the individual stars, so it is going to interact with the black hole more efficiently,” he explains. “The binary doesn’t have to

get nearly as close for one of the stars to get ripped away and captured.” But to prove the theory will require more powerful telescopes to find three key signs: large numbers of small stars captured near supermassive black holes, more observations of stars being “shredded” by gravity from black holes, and large numbers of “hypervelocity stars” that are flung from galaxies at more than 1 million mph when their binary partners are captured. Bromley, a University of Utah astrophysicist, did the study with astronomers Scott Kenyon, Margaret Geller and Warren Brown, all of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. The study was funded by both institutions. Black holes are objects in space so dense that not even light can escape their gravity, although powerful jets of light and energy can be emitted from a black hole’s vicinity as gas and stars are sucked into it. Small black holes result from the collapse of individual stars. But the centers of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way, are occupied by what are po-

“There are two ways to grow a supermassive black hole: with gas clouds and with stars. Sometimes there’s gas & sometimes there is not. We know that from observations of other galaxies. But there are always stars.”

pularly known as “supermassive” black holes that contain mass ranging from 1 million to 10 billion stars the size of our sun.

What Does a Supermassive Black Hole Eat: Gas or Stars? Astrophysicists long have debated how supermassive black holes grew during the 14 billion years since the universe began in a great expansion of matter and energy named the Big Bang. One side believes black holes grow larger mainly by sucking in vast amounts of gas; the other side says they grow primarily by capturing and sucking in stars. Just last month, other researchers published a theory that a black hole sucks in “food” by tipping its “plates” – two tilted gas disks colliding as they orbit the black hole – in a way that makes the speeding gas slow down so the black hole can swallow it. Bromley says that theory overcomes a key problem: gas flows into black holes inefficiently. “But are misaligned gas disks common enough to be important for black hole growth?” he asks. “It’s fair to say that gas contributes to the growth of black holes, but it is still uncertain how.”

(continued on page 16)



Artist’s conception of a supermassive black hole (lower left) with its tremendous gravity capturing one star (bluish, center) from a pair of binary stars, while hurling the second star (yellowish, upper right) away at a hypervelocity of more than 1 million mph. The grayish blobs are other stars captured in a cluster near the black hole. They appear distorted because the black hole’s gravity curves spacetime and thus bends the starlight. Photo Credit: Ben Bromley, University of Utah.

From left ro right: Astronomers Ben Bromley (Utah), Warren Brown (CFA), Margaret Geller (CFA), & Scott Kenyon (CFA).




he new theory about binary stars – a pair of stars that orbit each other – arose from Bromley’s earlier research to explain hypervelocity stars, which have been observed leaving our Milky Way galaxy at speeds ranging from 1.1 million to 1.8 million mph, compared with the roughly 350,000 mph speed of most stars.

Munching Binaries: One is Captured, One Speeds Away “The hypervelocity stars we see come from binary stars that stray close to the galaxy’s massive black hole,” he says. “The hole peels off one binary partner, while the other partner – the hypervelocity star – gets flung out in a gravitational slingshot.” “We put the numbers together for observed hypervelocity stars and other evidence, and found that the rate of binary encounters [with our galaxy’s supermassive black hole] would mean most of the mass of the galaxy’s black hole came from binary stars,” Bromley says. “We estimated these interactions for supermassive black holes in other galaxies and found that they too can grow to billions of solar masses in this way.” The new study looked at each step in the process of a supermassive black hole eating binary stars, and calculated what would be required for the process to work in terms of the rates at which hypervelocity stars are produced, binary partners are captured, the captured stars are bound to the black hole in elongated orbits and then sucked into it. The scientists then compared the results with actual observations of supermassive black holes, stars clustering near them and “tidal disruption events” in which black holes in other galaxies are seen to shred stars while pulling them into the hole.


As many as half of all stars are in binary pairs, so they are plentiful in the Milky Way and other galaxies, he adds. But the study assumed conservatively that only 10 percent of stars exist in binary pairs. “It fits together, and it works,” Bromley says. “When we look at observations of how stars are accumulating in our galactic center, it’s clear that much of the mass of the black hole likely came from binary stars that were torn apart.” He refers to the process of a supermassive black hole capturing stars from binary pairs as “filling the bathtub.” Once the tub – the area near the black hole – is occupied by a cluster of captured stars, they go “down the drain” into the black hole over millions of years. His study shows the “tub” fills at about the same rate it drains, meaning stars captured by a supermassive black hole eventually are swallowed.

will encounter the supermassive black hole, they estimated that one binary star will be torn apart every 1,000 years by the hole’s gravity. During the last 10 billion years, that would mean the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole ate 10 million solar masses – more than enough to account for the hole’s actual size of 4 million solar masses. “We found a wide range of black hole masses can be explained by this process,” Bromley says. Confirmation of the theory must await more powerful orbiting and groundbased telescopes. To confirm the theory, such telescopes should find many more stars in the cluster near the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole (we now see only the brightest ones), a certain rate of hypervelocity stars in southern skies, and more observations of stars being shredded in other galaxies.

The Study’s Key “When we look at Conclusions: The theory accurately predicts the rate (one every 1,000 to 100,000 years) at which hypervelocity stars are observed leaving our galaxy and at which stars are captured into the star cluster seen near our galaxy’s supermassive black hole. The rate of “tidal disruption events,” which are stars being shredded and pulled into supermassive black holes in other galaxies, also matches what the theory predicts, based on the limited number seen since they first were observed in the early 2000s. That rate also is one every 1,000 to 100,000 years. The calculations show how the theory’s rate of binary capture and consumption can explain how the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole has at least doubled to quadrupled in mass during the past 5 billion to 10 billion years. When the researchers considered the number of stars near the Milky Way’s center, their speed and the odds they

observations of how stars are accumulating in our galactic center, it’s clear that much of the mass of the black hole likely came from binary stars that were torn apart.” The full study is available on the arXiv preprint server at: abs/1203.6685 The study is published by Astrophysical Journal Letters, but only the abstract may be available to nonsubscribers:




Alia P. Schoen, Materials Research Society

state. Intriguingly, results from single-particle spectroscopy showed this peak only occurred in some fraction of the spectra collected from tetrapods, a CdSe core connecting four arms of CdS.

Su Liu (left) & Nick Borys (right), both employed in John Lupton’s lab. Borys & Lupton were authors on the paper, “The Role of Particle Morphology in Interfacial Energy Transfer in CdSe/CdS Heterostructure Nanocrystals”. Published in Science Dec 2010.


emiconductor heterostructures that have large absorption cross sections, high stability, and quantum yields as well as size-tunable electronic structures are good candidates for light-harvesting and energy conversion applications. Nanoscale CdSe/CdS heterostructures have been reported to exhibit either Type I behavior, in which a photogenerated electron–hole pair remains in one of the materials, or Type II behavior in which the electron and hole separate between the materials. This distinction in carrier migration behavior determines for which applications a structure may be used, light emission (Type I) versus photovoltaics (Type II) for example. A detailed understanding of the origin of the electronic structure of such heterojunctions is not only crucial for engineering particles for the desired application, but can also lead to the ability to fine-tune the material for optimal performance. N.J. Borys and M.J. Walter from the University of Utah, J. Huang and D.V. Talapin from the University of Chicago, and J.M. Lupton from the University of Utah and the Universität Regensburg, Germany, report on the morphological effects of CdSe/CdS nanocrystals on interfacial energy transfer properties as published in the December 3, 2010 issue of Science (DOI: 10.1126/ science.1198070; p. 1371). The researchers used single-particle light-harvesting action spectroscopy on a range of CdSe/CdS heterostructures to probe the electronic structure of the heterojunctions. Specifically they meas-ured photoluminescence excitation (PLE) of absorbing CdS through emission from CdSe. The single-particle approach enables the detection of properties that might be obscured in ensemble measurements. Typically nanoscale CdS exhibits a peak in its PLE spectrum due to the quantum-confined exiton

By studying other particle morphologies, including rods and spheres, the researchers were able to isolate structural features that seemed to control the presence or absence of the peak. A crucial part of this study was developing a method to correlate the single particle PLE with scanning electronic microscope images of the same particle to unambiguously show the connection to particle shape. Notably, spheres and rods with a bulbous coating around the CdSe particles did not show a peak. The researchers said that non-uniform diameter in the arms of the tetrapods or overgrowth of the CdS shell around the central core broadens quantum confinement effects and is responsible for the distinct spectra observed in the tetrapod population. By spectrally resolving the emission energies observed in tetrapods, a surprising dependence on the excitation energy was observed, primarily in tetrapods exhibiting an overall PLE signature indicating uniform morphology. The researchers said that this phenomenon is due to misalignment of the CdSe and CdS conduction bands, which should be more pronounced in a system with more narrowly defined energy levels. Because both the CdSe core exciton energy and the CdSe/ CdS interfacial exciton energy are observed in the emission spectra, the research team asserts that an interfacial barrier preventing complete transfer of the electron to the lowest energy conduction band exists. The researchers conclude that uniformity of morphology is directly related to the uniformity of quantum confinement in the particles, and affects electronic delocalization across the heterojunction. Band misalignment is more prevalent in morphologically uniform particles, and there appears to be a barrier to electron transfer between CdS and CdSe in these cases. The researchers suggest that nanostructures with uniform morphologies are desirable for light-emitting devices while those with some structural variation are more suited for lightharvesting applications because the barrier to electron transfer across the junction is less prevalent. * MRS Bulletin (2011), 36: 154-156, Copyright © 2011 Materials Research Society. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1557/ mrs.2011.51 Published online: 2011




A‘Dirt Cheap’ Magnetic

Field Sensor from‘Plastic Paint’ Spintronic Device Uses Thin-Film Organic Semiconductor


niversity of Utah physicists developed an inexpensive, highly accurate magnetic field sensor for scientific and possibly consumer uses based on a “spintronic” organic thin-film semiconductor that basically is “plastic paint.” The new kind of magnetic-resonance magnetometer also resists heat and degradation, works at room temperature and never needs to be calibrated, physicists Christoph Boehme, Will Baker and colleagues report online in the Tuesday, June 12 edition of the journal Nature Communications. The magnetic-sensing thin film is an organic semiconductor polymer named MEH-PPV. Boehme says it really is nothing more than an orange-colored “electrically conducting, magnetic field-sensing plastic paint that is dirt cheap. We measure magnetic fields highly accurately with a drop of plastic paint, which costs just as little as drop of regular paint.” An inexpensive and highly accurate “spintronic” magnetic field sensor developed at the University of Utah is shown here. The entire device, on a printed circuit board, measures about 0.8 inches by 1.2 inches. But the part that actually detects magnetic fields is the reddish-orange thin-film semiconductor – essentially “plastic paint” – near the center-right of the device. Photo Credit: Christoph Boehme, University of Utah


The orange spot is only about 5-by-5 millimeters (about one-fifth inch on a side), and the part that actually detects magnetic fields is only 1-by-1 millimeters. This organic semiconductor paint is deposited on a thin glass substrate which then is mounted onto a circuit board with that measures about 20-by-30 millimeters (about 0.8 by 1.2 inches). The new magnetic field sensor is the first major result to come out of the new Materials Research Science and Engineering Center launched by the University of Utah last September: a six-year, $21.5 million program funded by the National Science Foundation, the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative and the university. University of Utah physics professor Brian Saam, one of the center’s principal investigators, says the new magnetometer “is viewed widely as having exceptional impact in a host of realworld science and technology applications.” Boehme is considering forming a spinoff company to commercialize the sensors, on which a patent is pending. In the study, the researchers note that “measuring absolute magnetic fields is crucial for many scientific and technological applications.”

“There are sensors out there already, but they’re just not nearly as good – stable and accurate – and are much more expensive to make,” Saam says. Boehme believes the devices could be on the market in three years or less – if they can be combined with other new technology to make them faster. Speed is their one drawback, taking up to a few seconds to read a magnetic field. Boehme, the study’s senior author, conducted the research with University of Utah physics doctoral students Will Baker (the first author), Kapildeb Ambal, David Waters and Kipp van Schooten; postdoctoral researcher Hiroki Morishita; physics undergraduate student Rachel Baarda; and two physics professors who remain affiliated with the University of Utah after moving elsewhere: Dane McCamey of the University of Sydney, Australia, and John Lupton of the University of Regensburg, Germany.

“There are sensors out there already, but they’re just not nearly as good – stable & accurate – & are much more expensive to make,” The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Australian Research Council.

Sensor Based on Organic Spintronics The sensors are based on a field of science named spintronics, in which data is stored both electronically in the electrical charges of electrons or atomic nuclei and in what is known as the “spin” of those subatomic particles. Described simply, spin makes a particle behave like a tiny bar magnet that is pointed up or down within an electron or a nucleus. Down can represent 0 and up and represent 1, similar to how in electronics no charge represents 0 and a charge represents 1. Spintronics allows more information – spin and charge – to be used than electronics, which just uses charge. The new magnetic field sensor paint contains negatively charged electrons and positively charged “holes” that align their spins parallel or not parallel in the absence or presence of a magnetic field – but only if radio waves of a certain frequency also are applied to the semiconductor paint. So an electrical current is applied to the new device. Electrical contacts in the device act as tiny broadcast antennas to bombard the plastic paint with radio waves, which the researchers gradually change in frequency. If a magnetic field is present, the spins in the polymer paint will flip when the frequency of the radio waves matches the magnetic field. The change of spin in the paint is converted to an electrical current the researchers then read to determine magnetic field strength. Because the paint is an organic polymer, the sensor is known as an organic spintronics device.



s for potential uses in consumer products, Boehme says it’s difficult to predict what will happen, but notes that existing, more expensive magnetic-field sensors “are in many, many devices that we use in daily life: phones, hard drives, navigation devices, door openers, consumer electronics of many kinds. However, Joe Public usually is not aware when he uses those sensors.”

Device Works Even if ‘Old & Crusty’ The new magnetometer can detect magnetic fields ranging from 1,000 times weaker than Earth’s magnetic field to tens of thousands times stronger – a range that covers intermediate to strong magnetic fields, Boehme says. He says the new magnetometer cannot measure very weak magnetic fields, which now are measured by devices known as SQUIDS. It can measure strong magnetic fields, and although conventional magnetic resonance devices do that very well, they are bulky and expensive – such as those used in medical MRI machines – so the low cost and small size of the new magnetometers may give them some advantages. But the major use of the new devices is for intermediate strength magnetic fields, for which no existing device works as well, Boehme says. Boehme’s new sensor is known as an organic magnetic resonance magnetometer or OMRM. Its one disadvantage is it is slow, taking up to a few seconds to detect a magnetic field. Boehme hopes to combine his technology with similar developing magnetometer technology known as an organic magnetoresistant sensor, or OMAR, which is more than 100 times faster but requires calibration, isn’t very accurate, detects only weak to moderate magnetic fields and is vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and material degradation. The new device “can literally get old and crusty, and as long as it can carry a detectable current, the magnetic field can be measured accurately,” Boehme says. Boehme says new experiments will determine how much smaller the 1-square-millimeter sensing area can be made and still have it accurately detect magnetic fields. He is aiming for 1 million times smaller: “It’s a matter of microfabrication.”




University Awarded $1 Million by Keck Foundation to Study Cosmic Rays Grant Will Assist Researchers in Developing New Radar Technique to Study Origin, Energy, & Composition of Universe’s Most Energetic Particles


he University of Utah today announced that the W.M. Keck Foundation awarded $1 million to university researchers to study high-energy cosmic rays in Utah’s western deserts that are hurtling their way toward Earth. These rays — 10 trillion times more energetic than particles emitted in a nuclear explosion — originate from violent cosmic events deep within the universe. The Keck grant will assist a team of researchers in developing a new tool for understanding how the universe evolved. Employing a technique known as “Bistatic Radar,” researchers will attempt to use analog television transmitters and high-speed digital receivers to observe the range, direction and strength of high-energy particles in order to track these rays back to their point of origin. Bistatic Radar will be much less expensive than traditional cosmic ray detection techniques, which employ surface radiation detectors covering thousands of square kilometers of the Earth’s surface and cost tens of millions of dollars.


The new facility created under the auspices of this grant will be known as The W.M. Keck Radar Observatory. The Keck Radar Observatory will be located in Millard County Utah, where it will initially be co-located with Utah’s Telescope Array, currently the largest “conventional” cosmic ray observatory in the Northern Hemisphere. This will enable comparison of the Keck Observatory’s findings with those of a conventional observatory on an event-by-event basis and allow for the evaluation of radar scattering models. Utah’s western deserts offer low levels of light pollution and atmospheric aerosols, making Utah an ideal location for detecting and studying cosmic rays. In addition, Utah’s deserts are highly “radio-quiet” with low levels of human-generated high-frequency interference, which makes it uniquely suitable for tests of the radar technique. Computer simulation of air shower created by a cosmic ray proton interacting in the atmosphere, superimposed on an urban area for scale. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia.

“We are at the frontier in our understanding of the origin of the universe’s most energetic particles,” said John Belz, radar project director and research associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah. “These particles are hundreds of thousands of times more energetic than particles emitted from supernova explosions. Our main goal is to understand the origins of these rare cosmic rays, in order to gain a better understanding of some of the most violent processes shaping the universe.” In 1912, Victor Hess discovered cosmic rays, which since have been determined to be subatomic particles and radiation of extra-terrestrial origin. In 1991, the University of Utah’s Fly’s Eye Cosmic Ray Detector in Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground recorded the highest energy elementary particle ever observed. This particle was believed to be a proton traveling close to the speed of light and initiated a search for cosmic origins that continues to this day. High-energy cosmic particles are rare. A square mile of the Earth’s surface might be impacted by one of these particles roughly once a century. Other University of Utah researchers taking part in the study include: Pierre Sokolsky, professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and Dean of the College of Science; Behrouz Farhang-Boroujeny, professor and associate chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Gordon Thomson, the Jack W. Keuffel chair in experimental astrophysics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Investigators from other institutions include David Besson, professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Kansas; and Helio Takai, physicist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.


Computer simulation of air shower created by a cosmic ray, illustrating shower development and the large number of secondary particles. Photo Credit: Fabian Schmidt.

Artists conception of a cosmic ray, originating in a ‘jet’ from an active galaxy, colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere and creating an extensive air shower. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Science Photo Library website

About the W.M. Keck Foundation Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education. The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth. For more information, please visit www.

“These particles are hundreds of thousands of times more energetic than particles emitted from supernova explosions. Our main goal is to understand the origins of these rare cosmic rays, in order to gain a better understanding of some of the most violent processes shaping the universe.”

About the University of Utah The University of Utah, located in Salt Lake City in the foothills of the Wasatch Range, is the flagship institution of higher learning in Utah. Founded in 1850, it serves more than 31,000 students from across the United States and the world. With more than 72 major subjects at the undergraduate level and more than 90 major fields of study at the graduate level, including law and medicine, the university prepares students to live and compete in the global workplace. Learn more about all the U has to offer online at

John Belz, research associate professor and radar project director.




A new “spintronic” organic light-emitting diode glows orangish (center) when the device, chilled well below freezing, is exposed to a magnetic field from the two poles of an electromagnet located on either side of the device. University of Utah physicists report inventing the new kind of LED in the July 13 issue of the journal Science. Credit: Tho Nguyen, University of Utah.

Utah Physicists Invent ‘Spintronic’LED

New Technology Promises Brighter TV & Computer Displays


Vardeny developed the new kind of LED with Tho D. Nguyen, a research assistant professor of physics and first author of the study, and Eitan Ehrenfreund, a physicist at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

“It’s a completely different technology,” says Z. Valy Vardeny, University of Utah distinguished professor of physics and senior author of a study of the new OLEDs in the July 13, 2012 issue of the journal Science. “These new organic LEDs can be brighter than regular organic LEDs.”

The study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Israel Science Foundation and U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation. The research was part of the University of Utah’s new Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative.

niversity of Utah physicists invented a new “spintronic” organic light-emitting diode or OLED that promises to be brighter, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than the kinds of LEDs now used in television and computer displays, lighting, traffic lights and numerous electronic devices.

The Utah physicists made a prototype of the new kind of LED – known technically as a spin-polarized organic LED or spin OLED – that produces an orange color. But Vardeny expects it will be possible within two years to use the new technology to produce red and blue as well, and he eventually expects to make white spin OLEDs. However, it could be five years before the new LEDs hit the market because right now, they operate at temperatures no warmer than about minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and must be improved so they can run at room temperature, Vardeny adds.


The Evolution of LEDs & OLEDs

The original kind of LEDs, introduced in the early 1960s, used a conventional semiconductor to generate colored light. Newer organic LEDs or OLEDs – with an organic polymer or “plastic” semiconductor to generate light – have become increasingly common in the last decade, particularly for displays in MP3 music players, cellular phones and digital cameras. OLEDs also are expected to be used increasingly for room lighting. Big-screen TVs with existing OLEDs will hit the market later this year.

theSpectrum A green emitting OLED device. Credit: Tobias G., Wikipedia

The new kind of OLED invented by the Utah physicists also uses an organic semiconductor, but isn’t simply an electronic device that stores information based on the electrical charges of electrons. Instead, it is a “spintronic” device – meaning information also is stored using the “spins” of the electrons. Invention of the new spin OLED was made possible by another device – an “organic spin valve” – the invention of which Vardeny and colleagues reported in the journal Nature in 2004. The original spin-valve device could only regulate electrical current flow, but the researchers expected they eventually could modify it to also emit light, making the new organic spin valve a spin OLED. “It took us eight years to accomplish this feat,” Vardeny says. Spin valves are electrical switches used in computers, TVs, cell phones and many other electrical devices. They are so named because they use a property of electrons called “spin” to transmit information. Spin is defined as the intrinsic angular momentum of a particle. Electron spins can have one of two possible directions, up or down. Up and down can correlate to the zeroes and ones in binary code. Organic spin valves are comprised of three layers: an organic layer that acts as a semiconductor and is sandwiched between two metal electrodes that are ferromagnets. In the new spin OLED, one of the ferromagnet metal electrodes is made of cobalt and the other one is made of a compound called lanthanum strontium manganese oxide. The organic layer in the new OLED is a polymer known as deuterated-DOO-PPV, which is a semiconductor that emits orange-colored light. The whole device is 300 microns wide and long – or the width of three to six human hairs – and a mere 40 nanometers thick, which is roughly 1,000 to 2,000 times thinner than a human hair. A low voltage is used to inject negatively charged electrons and positively charged “electron holes” through the organic semiconductor. When a magnetic field is applied to the electrodes, the spins of the electrons and electron holes in the organic semiconductor can be manipulated to align either parallel or antiparallel.

Sony XEL-1, the world’s first OLED television. Credit: Steve Liao, Wikipedia

Advances Make New Kind of OLEDs Possible

In the new study, the physicists report two crucial advances in the materials used to create “bipolar” organic spin valves that allow the new spin OLED to generate light, rather than just regulate electrical current. Previous organic spin valves could only adjust the flow of electrical current through the valves. The first big advance was the use deuterium instead of normal hydrogen in the organic layer of the spin valve. Deuterium is “heavy hydrogen” or a hydrogen atom with a neutron added to regular hydrogen’s proton and electron. Vardeny says the use of deuterium made the production of light by the new spin OLED more efficient. The second advance was the use of an extremely thin layer of lithium fluoride deposited on the cobalt electrode. This layer allows negatively charged electrons to be injected through one side of the spin valve at the same time as positively charged electron holes are injected through the opposite side. That makes the spin valve “bipolar,” unlike older spin valves, into which only holes could be injected. It is the ability to inject electrons and holes at the same time that allows light to be generated. When an electron combines with a hole, the two cancel each other out and energy is released in the form of light. “When they meet each other, they form ‘excitons,’ and these excitons give you light,” Vardeny says. By injecting electrons and holes into the device, it supports more current and has the ability to emit light, he says, adding that the intensity of the new spintronic OLEDs can be a controlled with a magnetic field, while older kinds require more electrical current to boost light intensity. Existing OLEDs each produce a particular color of light – such as red, green and blue – based on the semiconductor used. Vardeny says the beauty of the new spin OLEDs is that, in the future, a single device may produce different colors when controlled by changes in magnetic field. He also says devices using organic semiconductors are generally less expensive and are manufactured with less toxic waste than conventional silicon semiconductors.




From left to right: Kyle Dawson, Randy Sylvester (L-3), Adam Beehler, Dan Watt (L-3), David Kieda, Carlos Cardon (L-3).



The Ups, Downs, Tops, Bottoms, Charms & Strangness of the Department


he Department of Physics & Astronomy has recently hired two new staff members, Dr. Zhiheng Liu, & Dr. Wesley Sanders to work in the nano-imaging facility, Laser Dixon Institute, MRSEC & electro-optics materials labs.

Dr. Zhiheng Liu

Dr. Zhiheng Liu, started at the beginning of October, joined us from Brooklyn College in New York. Zhiheng holds a Ph.D in physics and is an expert in optical engineering. His primary responsibility is to take over from Randy Polson, who left to take a full time position in the USTAR microscopy core, working with Ian Harvey.

Dr. Wesley Sanders joins the department November 1, from IM Flash Technologies. Wesley received his Ph.D in Experimental Chemistry at Virginia tech, did a post-doc at the naval Research Lab in Washington DC, and also spent some time at Salt Lake Community College. He brings an extensive knowledge of Dr. Wesley Sanders organic and inorganic materials fabrication techniques, including self-assembly fabrication of silver nano-wires. He will be working with Matt Delong in the Electro-optics labs, and will also have teaching and equipment responsibilities for the undergraduate and graduate labs. The Preston Taylor Scholarship Fund was recently established for undergraduate scholarships. The endowment is currently


being built up to allow the department to start awarding the scholarships. Senior engineer, Dr. Randy Polson, has accepted a position in the USTAR microscopy core. Randy received his Ph.D in 2002 and has been with the department ever since. The department congratulates Randy and wishes him the best of luck.

Dr. Randy Polson

The Graduate Student Fellowship is fairly new, started in January 2011. The department offers up to five graduate student fellowships each year to highly-qualified incoming students. This one-year $3000 fellowship occurs during their first year of graduate studies, and it enhances their normal graduate student stipend and provides extra recognition for these highly qualified students. Graduate student Anil Ghimire was awarded 1st place for his poster, “Towards Three-dimensional Measurement & Control of Emission Directionality from Single Particles” awarded in the field of nanotechnology: Devices & Sensor at NanoUtah 2012.

Anil Ghimire

The James Fletcher Building (JFB) Rotunda Re-pipe project concluded this summer. The old pipes were corroding and causing frequent leaks, resulting damage to ceilings and furnishings. It seemed imminent that a leak in a large lecture

nate the contamination in the system and to avoid circulating the contaminate water in the new piping in the rotunda.



hall would create a significant disruption in classes. The remedy required replacement of the heating water system, including pipes, coils, and control valves. In order to work on these systems, asbestos had to be removed from the ceilings. Once abatement started, it became apparent that it would be necessary to remove all of the ceiling material and light fixtures. Following abatement, all of the old heating water system was removed and replaced with new copper piping and equipment. The lath and plaster ceiling was replaced with wallboard and acoustic tile. The lighting system was replaced with LED lighting with a programmable control system.

Simpson, Facilities Manager, has been working with the carpenter shop supervisor over the past year on improving the appearance of the entrance.

An L-3 Thermal-Eye X200xp camera was donated by L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc. to help with lecture demonstrations, like those by Adam Beehler. The camera is one of the smallest handheld thermal imaging cameras currently L-3 Thermal-Eye X200xp. and is used Image courtesy of L-3 to demonstrate the electromagnetic spectrum. Astronomer Kyle Dawson believes there is a possibility that it could be used with telescopes, but its primary use will be for education and outreach. The west steps to the South Physics building were demolished and new stairs constructed this summer. Restoration of the steps was necessary to prevent a possible safety hazard due to further deterioration. Also, Harold

The department recently acquired a state of the art Hermle C-30U 5-Axis Machining Center from Sam Drake of the School of Computing. This machine will expand the department’s capabilities to produce complex parts with very high accuracy. In addition to the flexibility of 5-axis machining, the machine provides a 40,000 rpm spindle. The increased spindle Hermle C-30U 5-Axis Machining Center speed will permit work on even smaller scale parts than previously possible. All of the existing heating water piping control valves, coils, and pumps in the James Fletcher Building will be replaced in the JFB Re-pipe project. The heating water piping system is so full of corrosion that most control valves, strainers, and coils are plugging up and are unable to control the room temperatures. A number of attempts to flush the system were unsuccessful in restoring it to proper operation. During frequent repairs to the controls, the piping would break requiring additional repairs. The decision was made to replace all of the existing heating water piping to elimi-

The Department of Physics & Astronomy received $103,000 in campus Capital Facilities & Remodeling funds to renovate the 4th floor astronomy lab in the South Physics building. The new facility will house education and public outreach activities for the South Physics Observatory, handle analysis of the data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III, and serve as the control room for the Willard. L. Eccles Observatory at Frisco Peak, Utah. Senior lab specialist, Wayne Wingert, passed away unexpectedly near the end of September. Wayne joined the department as a lab assistant in 1983 and worked extensively in the Crystal growth facility, growing unique inorganic crystals. In the early 2000’s the research emphasis in the field changed Wayne Wingert to organic materials, and Wayne’s position took on a more varied assignments: ongoing work in inorganic and organic materials, equipment maintenance in the condensed matter research groups, safety, inventory, and maintenance of technical equipment in the undergraduate and graduate labs. In the past year Wayne began to train on the high-resolution Scanning Electron Microscope in order to renew his technical skills and provide new capabilities to the electro-optics lab. He was beginning to run samples for departmental, on-campus, and external customers during the past six months. Wayne was an integral part of the department staff for many years, and certainly a person who enjoyed life and the outdoors. His presence in the department will be immeasurably missed. Special thanks to Kathy Blair, Dave Kieda, Vicki Nielsen, & Harold Simpson



J. Irvin Swigart Lecture Hall - 103 James Fletcher Building



Lecture Demonstration Specialist

Adam Beehler’s Demolicious Physics presents:



Laser Spirograph


(Lissajous Patterns*)

I think I first saw such an arrangement at the Little Shop of Physics outreach program at Colorado State University. Taking a laser pointer and aiming it at a mirror, the beam is directed toward a second mirror, and then on to a third mirror. Each mirror is mounted onto a little motor that can be controlled by a switch (both items easily found at any hobby supply store). In this way, one rotating mirror can reflect the beam in one direction while another mirror can reflect that same beam in another direction. Due to the persistence of vision of our eyes, we see the beam drawn around in wonderful patterns on a screen. I have personally made a little portable version with the components mounted on a board. It was a big hit one campout when I projected cool, moving patterns onto the trees at night.

I was contemplating some of the cool things that could be done by folks with common, everyday materials. It was not long before I remembered the laser. What was non-existent in the not too distant past, is now ubiquitous & necessary for so many other applications. To many people, a laser is considered just a toy. So, here are a few activities that I have enjoyed over the years that are made possible, or easier, with a simple laser pointer, found at any office supply store. (Laser pointers are less expensive online, on sites like


(Total Internal Reflection)

This can be done as simply as filling a plastic bottle with water, and then poking a small hole near the bottom of the bottle to allow a stream of water to smoothly shoot out and down. Now all that is required is to aim the laser beam through the water-filled bottle and into the water stream. A fair amount of the light will totally internally reflect inside the water stream and be guided down with the stream. Placing one’s hand into the stream should reveal the laser light shining on your skin, and mixing in a little scattering agent (such as Pine-Sol or milk) can make the beam more visible.





Change Color

Materials that change their color upon illumination are called photochromic materials, and the phenomenon is known as photochromism. The material’s molecules are transparent to visible light in the absence of UV light, but when exposed to UV light, the molecules undergo a chemical process that causes them to change shape. The new molecular structure absorbs portions of the visible light, causing the lenses to darken. Upon removing the UV light, a different chemical reaction takes place, and the molecules go back to their original shape. A simple way to see this effect is to get some photochromic sunglasses and go outside into the sun, but it is more fun to try it with a UV laser pointer. Don’t worry, the lenses will go back to normal.

Laser Radio (Beam Modulation)

Using a simple laser pointer, a few miscellaneous parts*, and a bit of time, one can make a simple laser communicator. It converts a sound source into light that travels across a room and then back into sound with very little quality loss. Basically, the laser light is amplitude modulated. This simply means that the amount of light the laser emits varies over time. A solar cell can pick up the signal and convert it back into sound. I have piggy-backed music on a laser beam down a long hallway successfully.

(Fluorescence - Cool Color Changes)

We are able to send laser beams through different materials and see the path of the beam due to the scattering of the beam off of microscopic particles within the material through which it passes. This is cool in and of itself. We can literally show reflection, refraction, dispersion, and total internal reflection. However, by choosing different materials to shine the laser through, we can also affect the color of the beam. Some of the light may be absorbed by the medium and excite the dye above its ground energy state. If this transition is followed by another instantaneous transition back down to some excited state above the ground energy state, then it radiates lower energy photons than those used to excite it in the first place. This is known as fluorescence. It is a common misconception that fluorescence only occurs when using ultraviolet light (UV), yet that is wrong. I enjoy taking my green laser pointer (as well as my UV laser pointer) and shining it through anything I can think of in my house. * Full materials list available online :




Transition Lenses

Laser Waterfall




This article originally published on August 5, 2012 in the Salt Lake Tribune. Reprinted with permission from Sheena McFarland & the Salt Lake Tribune.

sentially an oversized air bag, but the Mini Cooper-sized Curiosity weighs nearly a ton — too heavy to use the method. Instead, scientists programmed the autopilot to slow itself down from 13,000 mph to a crawl using heat shields, a massive parachute and a complicated rocket-propelled backpack, called Sky Crane, that used nylon ropes to lower the rover into a crater next to a nearly four-mile-high mountain. Several parents brought their children to the event. Bonnie Larson, of Sandy, casually mentioned the event to her 10-year-old son, Henry, Sunday evening, “and he was in the car Photo Credit: N ASA/JPL

Give the landing a 10.


ASA’s Curiosity rover, the largest-ever rover launched, safely made its way to the surface of the red planet — a maneuver trickier than sticking any gymnastics landing seen in the London Olympics. The anticipation and excitement were palpable as more than 250 people gathered at the University of Utah to watch the broadcast from inside NASA’s mission control as scientists, and the world, heard the step-by-step progress of Curiosity’s landing. The audience erupted in shouts and applause when NASA received confirmation of the 11:31 p.m. landing. Patrick Wiggins, NASA solar system ambassador to Utah, said he was “giddy” all night. “It just went so well, so well. We’re on Mars!” he said as tears of joy gathered in his eyes. “The insane descent module worked.” Images nearly instantly began streaming in from the $2.5 billion machine, also called the Mars Science Laboratory. It is equipped with sensors, cameras and a robotic arm as it searches for signs of past microbial life on Mars. For the past 36 weeks, it has traveled 352 million miles, but the most difficult part of the trip was the landing.

“Kids respond really well to exploration,” he said. “This is a defining moment in their lives of the technological advances being made.” before I could say ‘Whoa!’ “ She filled her coffee mug and drove her son, who competes to make and program robots as part of First Lego League, to the event. “This is a good lesson because it’s just like in Lego league — this shows these kids there are going to be moments of stress and you’re not going to know if it works until it’s over,” Larson said. David Gonzalez drove his two children, Clive, 7, and Zion, 10, from Provo to the U. to watch the event. He homeschools his children and said he has prioritized once-in-a-lifetime events such as this one. “Kids respond really well to exploration,” he said. “This is a defining moment in their lives of the technological advances being made.” Twitter: @sheena5427

Previous rovers have been dropped onto the planet in es-



Photo Credit: University of Utah

Cosmic Ray Research Group Opens



he University of Utah’s Department of Physics & Astronomy held an open house at 1 p.m. MDT Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 at the new Millard County Cosmic Ray Visitor Center in Delta, Utah. The center – which normally will be open 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays – holds displays about the history of cosmic ray research in Utah and about the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory, which is spread across the desert west of Delta. The center also includes a display about the nearby Topaz internment camp, where U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were imprisoned during World War II. The University of Utah serves as the host institution for the Telescope Array, which is an international collaboration of more than 30 universities and research institutions from the United States, Japan, Korea, Russia and Belgium. The Telescope Array is the largest cosmic ray detector in the Northern Hemisphere. This project is the most recent experiment in cosmic ray research in Utah. Cosmic ray research in Utah dates back to 1950 with research by the University of Utah’s Jack Keufel in the Park City silver

mines. Subsequent experiments included the Fly’s Eye and High-Resolution Fly’s Eye projects, which were located on the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground. The new visitor center is located at 648 West Main St. in Delta, Utah, inside the existing Lon and Mary Watson Cosmic Ray Center, which is the hub of day-to-day operations and construction of new equipment for the Telescope Array. The visitor center’s posters and other displays explain how the Telescope Array detects cosmic ray events using two methods: three fluorescence detectors that record faint flashes in the sky from when cosmic rays collide with atmospheric gases, and more than 500 scintillation detectors on the ground that record “air shower” particles resulting from those collisions. There is also a digital photo display of images from the Telescope Array and prior experiments. And a large LED display shows the map of the scintillation detectors spread across the desert and lights up to display cosmic ray air shower events.




The University of Utah is opening a new Millard County Cosmic Ray Visitor Center in Delta, Utah, inside the existing Lon and Mary Watson Cosmic Ray Center, which is the hub of operations for the nearby Telescope Array, a cosmic ray observatory spread across the desert west of delta.


2011-2012 GRADUATES

The Department of Physics & Astronomy congratulates all of its graduates and welcomes them to our alumni family!


BACCALAUREATES Corbin Andersen 2011 Ryan Arneson 2011 Hans-Paul Frederick Baehr 2012 Michael S. Bentley 2012 Oscar Bernal 2011 Dieter Alexander Bevans 2012 Michael John Bigelow 2012 Joshua Binks 2011 Matthew A. Blackmon 2012 Cierra Anne Block 2012 Justin Lamar Boyer 2012 Jordan R. Brown 2012 Mason Paul Childs 2012 Bryan Clayton 2011 Kevin Ray Davenport 2012 Alexander T. Derrick 2012 Elena Deryusheva 2012 Dillon Blake Ely 2012 Mark McKay Feil 2012 Justin Findlay 2011 Alex Hilton Gibbs 2012 Jake Graser 2011 Tate Harris 2011 Jeffrey Michael Helotes 2012 Thomas David Higgs 2012 Jason Lynn Hoggan 2012


Stein Ingebretsen 2011 Renaldo Jones 2011 Scott Michael Karren 2012 Russell Koch 2011 Elizabeth Lee 2011 Jason T. Martineau 2012 Zachary Matheson 2011 Andrew Merrell 2011 Debra Lynn Smail Mitchell 2012 Julia Rose Nielson 2012 Andrew Scott Perry 2012 Michael Robert Price 2012 Ryan Price 2011 Jamie Rankin 2011 Mikaela Ray 2011 Joseph Timothy Rowley 2012 Jonathan Richards 2011 Anne Marie Shaeffer 2011 Nirmal I Shah 2012 Matthew Roy Shaw 2012 John David Shifflet 2012 Christopher Simmons 2011 Tyler Soelberg 2011 Lance Topham 2011 Thomas Van Hook 2011 Jenna Marie Whippen 2012 Benjamin Yonkee 2011

Monica Allen 2011 Jose Cardoza 2012 Josh Coon 2012 Nora Hassan 2012 Shengqiang Huang 2011 Golda Hukic-Markosian 2011 Saskia Innemee 2012 Maria Navas 2011 Paul Nunez 2011 Bill Pandit 2012 Fei Teng 2012 Luca Visinelli 2012

PH.D’S Monica Allen 2012 Will Baker 2012 Nicholas Borys 2011 Josh Coon 2012 Gary Finnegan 2012 Rachel Glenn 2012 Michelle Hui 2011 Golda Hukic-Markosian 2011 Fangxiang Jiao 2012 Hyunjeong Kim 2012 Sangyun Lee 2011 Su Liu 2012 Zayd Ma 2012 Jason Mendes 2011 Maria Navas 2011 Paul Nunez 2012 Seoyoung Paik 2011 Eyal Shafran 2011 Priti Shah 2012 Eric Sorte 2011 Kipp vanSchooten 2012 Luca Visinelli 2012 Dustin Winslow 2011



FOR ASTRONOMERS W by David Harris - Graduate Student,

hile the Astronomy group grows ever larger, opportunities within Astronomy seem to grow faster still. Announced over just the last few weeks, the department has added three new faculty members. New Astronomy-minded Post-docs, grad students, and undergrads will be joining us shortly.

Meanwhile, opportunities for research abound. BOSS will soon be finishing its second year of observations and is on track to meet its goal of spectroscopically measuring the redshift of 1.5 million galaxies across 10,000 square degrees of sky by the spring of 2014. APOGEE, which, like BOSS, is part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III, saw first light this spring. APOGEE will use high resolution infrared spectroscopy to study 100,000 red giant stars across the galaxy, providing important information on the chemical and dynamical history of our galaxy. Coming up soon, BigBOSS will expand on our current project, BOSS, and will develop the world’s most powerful astronomical survey spectrograph. The collaboration will be able to, in effect, create a map of both nearby and distant galaxies, unprecedented in its scope. Opportunities for outreach to the community, a very important part of our role in the department, have been frequent. At Yuri’s Night, celebrating Yuri Gagarin’s history making first orbit, many in and out of the department came together to watch a video about the momentous occasion. On May 7th, 2011 we celebrated Astronomy Day. A special star party was organized by the University and the Salt Lake

Astronomical Society at Stansbury Park. The Clark Planetarium showed many of its movies for just a dollar. The planetarium lobby, meanwhile, was filled with tables, allowing professional and amateur astronomers and engineers present their expertise to the community. I was able to speak to over one hundred people there! What a great opportunity to share our work with our community. More recently, the department hired Tabitha Buehler, who is now leading many of our outreach programs. She came in just in time, too. The recent solar eclipse was an excellent opportunity to invite laypeople to our South Physics Observatory and teach them about Astronomy for this rare and beautiful eclipse. And just a few days later a literal once in a lifetime Venus transit occurred, giving us another opportunity for community outreach. It certainly is a good time to be an Astronomer at the University of Utah!


The University of Utah’s Department of Physics & Astronomy hosts free public Star Parties every clear Wednesday night on the roof of the South Physics Building at the University of Utah. Scout tours available upon request. More information: 801-58-SPACE (801-587-7223)


115 South 1400 East, 201 JFB Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0830


Spectrum Newsletter - Fall 2012