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College of Arts and Sciences Physics and Astronomy

Discovery for modifying diamonds could change computing

Marc WeberPULLMAN, Wash. – A group of WSU researchers has discovered a way to modify diamonds that opens up important applications in the field of quantum computing and in radiation detection.

Kelvin Lynn, professor of physics and of mechanical and materials engineering, and his team were using very thin strips of diamond inside a particle accelerator when they made an intriguing scientific discovery — by accident. » More …

Researchers transform graphite into hexagonal diamond

Dynamic Compression Sector at Argonne National Labs Advanced Photon SourceA new study by Washington State University researchers answers longstanding questions about the formation of a rare type of diamond during major meteorite strikes.

Hexagonal diamond or lonsdaleite is harder than the type of diamond worn on an engagement ring and is thought to be naturally made when large, graphite-bearing meteorites slam into Earth.

Scientists have puzzled over the exact pressure and other conditions needed to make hexagonal diamond since its discovery in an Arizona meteorite fragment half a century ago. » More …

WSU physicist receives prestigious U.S. Department of Energy early career award

Brian Collins, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, has received one of only 59 national Early Career Research awards from the U.S. Department of Energy for 2017. Around 700 scientists from across the country applied for the award.

The five-year, $750,000 grant will support Collins and his team of graduate and undergraduate students in their research developing and testing new resonant X-ray scattering techniques that reveal how organic, carbon-based molecules assemble, orient and conform into nanostructures. » More …

New device could turn heat into a viable energy source

A new device being developed by Washington State University physicist Yi Gu could one day turn the heat generated by a wide array of electronics into a usable energy source.

A multi-component, multi-layered composite material called a van der Waals Schottky diode, the WSU device converts heat into electricity up to three times more efficiently than silicon, a semiconductor material widely used in the electronics industry. While still in an early stage of development, the new diode could eventually provide an extra source of power for everything from smartphones to automobiles. » More …

CAS hosts solar eclipse viewing parties

crecent sun through solar glasses Mother Nature provided a special treat for the first day of classes at Washington State University this year: a total solar eclipse across all of the United States. Although the path of totality ran from the Oregon coast all the way through South Carolina, the Vancouver, Tri-Cities, and Pullman campus each experienced more than 93% of the surface of the sun being blocked by the moon. The College of Arts and Sciences hosted a viewing party on the Holland Library lawn and at the Jewett Observatory to help students and the WSU community enjoy and learn about the celestial phenomenon.  Solar glasses were the most popular way to look at the sun–and the only way to do so safely.

At Holland Library, volunteers from the Department of Physics, along with the CAS Student Ambassadors, showed students and community members how to use » More …

WSU scientists help detect gravitational waves for third time

LIGO Hanford from the airThree billion years ago in a distant galaxy, two massive black holes slammed together, merged into one and sent space–time vibrations, known as gravitational waves, shooting out into the universe.

The waves passed through Earth and were detected early this year by an international team of scientists, including WSU physicists Sukanta Bose, Bernard Hall and Nairwita Mazumder.

The newfound black hole, first reported in the journal Physical Review Letters in June, has a mass about 49 times that of the sun. The collision that produced it released more power in an instant than is radiated by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any moment.  » More …

Eclipse to cast ‘deep’ shadow across southern Washington state

Parts of Washington state will be treated to an extraordinary show during what NASA is calling the “Great American Eclipse” on Aug. 21, even though the sun won’t completely disappear.

As the total eclipse cuts a swath across neighboring Oregon and Idaho, some locations in the state will enjoy a “deep partial eclipse,” said astronomer Michael Allen of Washington State University.

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Physicists write with light, turn crystal into an electrical circuit

artistic depiction of writing with lightWashington State University physicists have found a way to write an electrical circuit into a crystal, opening up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that, like an Etch A Sketch, can be erased and reconfigured.

The work, to appear in the on-line journal Scientific Reports, serves as a proof of concept for a phenomenon that WSU researchers first discovered by accident four years ago. » More …

$1.7 million x-ray microscope to unleash WSU materials research

colorful microscopic images from ZeissWhen it arrives on campus this fall, a powerful new $1.7 million x-ray microscope will help Washington State University scientists develop specialized materials for technologies such as self-healing roads, printable batteries and super-efficient solar cells.

WSU will be the first U.S. university to have the ZEISS Xradia Ultra 810’s state-of-the-art, 3D imaging capabilities.

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‘Negative mass’ created at WSU

partial figure from published paperWashington State University physicists have created a fluid with negative mass, which is exactly what it sounds like. Push it, and unlike every physical object in the world we know, it doesn’t accelerate in the direction it was pushed. It accelerates backwards.

The phenomenon is rarely created in laboratory conditions and can be used to explore some of the more challenging concepts of the cosmos, said Michael Forbes, a WSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington. The research appears today in the journal Physical Review Letters, where it is featured as an “Editor’s Suggestion.”

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