Explaining atomic motion

By laser-cooling atoms and studying their movements, a Missouri S&T physicist hopes to better understand how environmental factors affect atoms and their components.

20160602_daniel_fischer_0046Daniel Fischer, assistant professor of physics, uses laser beams to trap lithium atoms in a magnetic field inside a custom-built vacuum chamber. He then ionizes them using different lasers and, with the aid of a high-resolution momentum microscope, measures the distance and velocity they travel.

“It can be extremely challenging to predict the motion of three or more particles due to their mutual forces,” Fischer says. “This complex interplay of several particles requires a combination of theoretical and experimental research because such systems cannot be fully described by mathematical expressions alone.”

This is what physicists refer to as the “few-body problem,” which continues to confound the physics world.

“These few-body problems have both fundamental and technological relevance for the future,” he says. “For example, if you destroy a cancerous cell in a body, the destruction of the genetic material is not only driven by their direct absorption of radiation but also by the interaction with nearby molecules and surrounding liquids. By understanding how the atoms of these cells share the absorbed energy, we could better control localized treatments.”

Few-body prediction could also be used in materials science, quantum chemistry, biological science and information processing, says Fischer.

Fischer’s research was funded through a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Early Career Development (CAREER) Program.

Around the Puck

Q&A: Miners got game

What was the most memorable sports team during your time on campus? As part of his research for the S&T 150th history book, Larry Gragg, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, asked you to share your memories. Here are a few of your answers.

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Honoring new academy members

In October, 12 alumni and friends were inducted into Missouri S&T academies. Academy membership recognizes careers of distinction and invites members to share their wisdom, influence and resources with faculty and students. Some academies hold induction ceremonies in the fall, others in the spring.

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Boosting cyber-physical security

A wide array of complex systems that rely on computers — from public water supply systems and electric grids to chemical plants and self-driving vehicles — increasingly come under not just digital but physical attacks. Bruce McMillin, professor and interim chair of computer science at Missouri S&T, is looking to change that by developing stronger safeguards […]

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MXene discovery could improve energy storage

In spite of their diminutive size, 2-D titanium carbide materials known as MXenes are “quite reactive” to water, a discovery S&T researchers say could have implications for energy storage and harvesting applications such as batteries, supercapacitors and beyond. Their findings were published in 2018 in the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry.

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A faster charge for electric vehicles

One drawback of electric vehicles (EVs) is the time it takes to charge them. But what if you could plug in your EV and fully charge it as quickly as it takes to fill up a conventional car with gasoline? Missouri S&T researchers, in collaboration with three private companies, are working to make speedy charging […]

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