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Physics

rollable electronics
Summer 2017

Organic electronics on a roll

In the near future, your local hardware store could include a “green electronics” counter where friendly clerks unspool sheets of plastic film and print devices while you wait.

Need a few more solar panels? No problem.

How about a flexible LED lighting strip? This roll over here.

Computer? Loudspeaker? Or maybe transparent, energy-producing panels for your greenhouse? On sale today!

Though the scene is hypothetical, the emerging technology for organic, thin-film polymer plastics is up and running in laboratories around the world, including those of the Collins Research Group at Washington State University.

Led by assistant professor of physics Brian Collins, the enthusiastic … » More …

John Yeager
Summer 2017

John Yeager ’06, ’08 MS, ’11 PhD

John Yeager wants to know what happens to materials all the way down to the nanoscale, even when they detonate. His curiosity led to three WSU materials science degrees, and a recent award.

Yeager ’06, ’08 MS, ’11 PhD, now works for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s High Explosives Science and Technology group in New Mexico. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in January.

Established in 1996, the Presidential Early Career Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. Yeager is among … » More …

Spring 2017

Paths that grew crystal clear

Crystals reflect the best of nature’s handiwork. With their atoms aligned in repeating 3D patterns, crystals can be as momentary as a snowflake or as common as the sodium chloride in table salt. They can sparkle on a finger, scatter rainbows across the room, or be grown on your kitchen table with a few ingredients from the hobby shop.

Some also possess unusual properties, such as quartz crystal’s ability to generate a tiny electrical current when pressure is applied. Known as the piezoelectric effect, this useful phenomenon helped inspire the rise of a global, multibillion dollar crystal growth industry.

Today, manmade crystals power an astonishing … » More …

Spring 2017

The matter of antimatter

Deep in the bowels of a large brick building on the WSU campus is a laboratory guarded by red flashing lights and warning signs. A tiny window in the door offers glimpses of stainless steel machinery while a low pulsating hum emanates through thick concrete walls.

Inside the W. M. Keck Antimatter Laboratory, a deuteron accelerator produces up to 120 billion positrons per second—about 10 trillion positrons per day, more than any other university or small laboratory in the nation.

Positrons are a type of antimatter. For every proton, neutron, or electron spinning within an atom there is a particle of opposite charge—its antiparticle. Positrons … » More …

Winter 2016

Shock & awe

In a windowless room some 20 miles outside Chicago, five scientists in jeans and shirtsleeves are preparing to glimpse something that until now has been hidden from human view: the nearly instantaneous, atomic-level transformation of a material under intense pressure. Since the dawn of time, such changes have gone hand in hand with some of the most extreme of moments: the creation of the universe, the heat and pressure in the Earth’s core, the failures of bridges and buildings, and the business end of a bullet.

Until now, no one has seen them in such detail.

On this day at Argonne National Laboratory, Stefan … » More …

Trip the light fantastic
Spring 2016

Trip the light fantastic

When physicist Mark Kuzyk throws a science soiree he doesn’t mess around. Out come the lasers, high-tech origami, ornate wire sculptures, and sticky-stretchy gel that’s fun to throw at the wall. But it’s all for a greater purpose.

The Washington State University Regents professor is developing a shape-changing, laser-guided electrode for the treatment of pain, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression.

The ultra-thin electrode is designed for use in deep brain stimulation (DBS) and relies on optics and photomechanical materials to improve the precision and delicacy of the procedure. Sometimes known as the “brain pacemaker,” DBS holds promise for a wide range of conditions and may … » More …

LIGO Observatory at Hanford. Courtesy National Science Foundation
Winter 2015

Eureka! on the horizon

The silence is unnerving. Not another car in sight as I drive through the desolate Hanford nuclear area. The road unfolds in an eerie lacework of tarred concrete until finally I see it gleaming in the distance—the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO.)

LIGO is home to Earth’s most sensitive optical instrument, uniquely designed to intercept gravity waves. These elusive cosmic waves—or ripples in space-time—are so miniscule that Einstein thought them impossible to view and measure. And so far, he’s been right. Yet if detected, gravitational waves could transform our fundamental understanding of the universe.

They also, incidentally, play a starring role in the hit … » More …

Phil Marston. by Robert Hubner
Fall 2013

The tractor beam has arrived

Capt. James T. Kirk: You left spacedock without a tractor beam?

Capt. John Harriman: It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday.

—from Star Trek: Generations

Phil Marston is not a Trekkie, nor has he given much thought to the Star Trek tractor beam that can use focused beams of energy to attract and repel derelict spacecraft or, in one case, USS Enterprise Capt. James T. Kirk.

He was just intrigued by something, in this case, the way an acoustic beam is scattered by a sphere.

“Basically, it goes into the category of a problem you solve because it would be curious to see what … » More …

Spring 2012

Video: The Amazing Leaproach

An insect’s small size gives it the gift of relatively greater strength. The newly discovered South African cockroach Saltoblattella montistabularis takes advantage of this fact plus several other features, as Washington State University entomologist Carol Anelli describes here:

This is very cool for several reasons.

It is a wingless cockroach, described for the first time only two years ago, and the first existing roach known to jump. It achieves this feat with modified hind legs that possess long femurs invested with enlarged muscles. These long femurs—akin to the longest bone in the human body—help give grasshoppers their great jumping ability.