News

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Condensed Matter Experiment
  • Condensed Matter Theory

One of the greatest mysteries in condensed matter physics is the exact relationship between charge order and superconductivity in cuprate superconductors. In superconductors, electrons move freely through the material—there is zero resistance when it’s cooled below its critical temperature. However, the cuprates simultaneously exhibit superconductivity and charge order in patterns of alternating stripes. This is paradoxical in that charge order describes areas of confined electrons. How can superconductivity and charge order coexist?  

Now researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collaborating with scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have shed new light on how these disparate states can exist adjacent to one another. Illinois Physics post-doctoral researcher Matteo Mitrano, Professor Peter Abbamonte, and their team applied a new x-ray scattering technique, time-resolved resonant soft x-ray scattering, taking advantage of the state-of-the-art equipment at SLAC. This method enabled the scientists to probe the striped charge order phase with an unprecedented energy resolution. This is the first time this has been done at an energy scale relevant to superconductivity.

  • Alumni News
  • In the Media

Will Hubin was one of those kids whose wallpaper and bed sheets were covered in airplanes and who loved building model airplanes. By the time he took his first flight in the late 1940s, he was hooked.

Now, he shares his passion for planes with children by taking them for their first flight, at no charge, in his four-seat 2008 Diamond DA-40 aircraft through the local Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.

“It’s a lot of fun and pretty rewarding. Anyone who loves flying likes to introduce others to it. It’s true of anything, any hobbyist. Some will talk constantly but they’re ecstatic,” said Hubin, a retired Kent State University physics professor.

Hubin learned to fly in 1962 when he was earning a doctorate in physics at the University of Illinois and has been flying ever since, adding commercial, instrument, instructor, multi-engine and seaplane ratings.

  • Research
  • Theoretical Biological Physics
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

While watching the production of porous membranes used for DNA sorting and sequencing, University of Illinois researchers wondered how tiny steplike defects formed during fabrication could be used to improve molecule transport. They found that the defects – formed by overlapping layers of membrane – make a big difference in how molecules move along a membrane surface. Instead of trying to fix these flaws, the team set out to use them to help direct molecules into the membrane pores.

Their findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Nanopore membranes have generated interest in biomedical research because they help researchers investigate individual molecules – atom by atom – by pulling them through pores for physical and chemical characterization. This technology could ultimately lead to devices that can quickly sequence DNA, RNA or proteins for personalized medicine.

  • In Memoriam

We are saddened to report that John Robert Schrieffer, Nobel laureate and alumnus of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, passed away on July 27, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida. He was 88 years old.

Schrieffer was the “S” in the famous BCS theory of superconductivity, one of the towering achievements of 20th century theoretical physics, which he co-developed with his Ph.D advisor Professor John Bardeen and postdoctoral colleague Dr. Leon N. Cooper. At the time that Schrieffer began working with Bardeen and Cooper, superconductivity was regarded as one of the major challenges in physics. Since the discovery of the hallmark feature of superconductivity in 1911—the zero resistance apparently experienced by a current in a metal at temperatures near absolute zero—a long list of famous theoretical physicists had attempted to understand the phenomenon, including Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Richard Feynman, Lev Landau, Felix Bloch, Werner Heisenberg and John Bardeen himself (who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his co-invention of the transistor at around the time that Schrieffer began working with him in 1956).

Physics Professor Julia “Jessie” Shelton of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been awarded the 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the US government on scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Shelton is a theorist whose work spans a broad range of topics in particle physics beyond the Standard Model. She is especially interested in elucidating the nature of dark matter and in searching for unusual footprints of new physics at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. Her recent work focuses on possible decays of the Higgs boson to new particles, strategies to detect particles produced at the LHC that travel macroscopic distances before decaying, and the cosmological origin stories of "hidden sector" dark matter, i.e., dark matter that interacts far more strongly with other dark particles than it does with us.

John Robert Schrieffer, one of three Americans who shared the Nobel Prize in physics for their theory explaining superconductivity, a near-miraculous process in which electric current flows without resistance, died July 27 at a nursing facility in Tallahassee. He was 88. Among physicists, the theory that accounted for the mysteries of superconductivity became known as the BCS theory, for its three creators: John Bardeen, Leon Neil Cooper and Dr. Schrieffer. They shared the Nobel in 1972. When the theory was developed in 1957, Dr. Schrieffer was working on his dissertation at the University of Illinois under Bardeen, who had received a Nobel Prize the previous year as an inventor of the transistor.

  • In the Media
  • Outreach

If he told you, he would have to kill you.

So Alan Nathan, the University of Illinois scholar who is the unofficial physicist of Major League Baseball, is keeping his lips sealed.

“There is a limit to what I can talk about,” said Nathan. “It will become public soon.”

 

What is so sensitive that discretion is required?

Nathan and a group of fellow academics, on assignment from MLB Commissioner Rod Manfred, are closing in on the cause of the home runs being hit out of MLB stadiums in record numbers.

  • Research
  • Quantum Information Science
  • Condensed Matter Theory

Physics Professors Bryan Clark and Taylor Hughes of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been awarded US Department of Energy (DOE) grants to develop new quantum computing capabilities. The awards are part of a $37-million DOE initiative supporting research that will lay the groundwork for the development of new quantum information systems and that will use current quantum information capabilities to advance research in material and chemical sciences.

Quantum information science (QIS) is an exciting and rapidly growing field promising a broad range of advances beyond today’s classical technologies. QIS exploits quantum mechanics—the theory that explains nature at all scales, from electrons, to atoms, to neutron stars—as a platform for information processing, data storage, and secure communications. Quantum computers will use qubits, non-binary bits capable of hosting near limitless quantum states to process and store data, while quantum communications will leverage quantum mechanical properties such as entanglement to generate unhackable encryption.

  • In the Media
  • Outreach

In their white lab coats, Madisen LeShoure and Rola Abudayeh throw around scientific terms such as “hydrophobic” and “micro goniometer” like real research pros.

Which they are, in fact, becoming through a program offered by the University of Illinois and funded by the National Science Foundation.

The two Champaign Central High School students are participating in the Young Scholars Program at the Grainger College of Engineering. Now in its third year, the program immerses 25 to 30 local high school students in a research project on campus for six weeks during the summer.

 

Six of them, including LeShoure and Abudayeh, get to continue that research during the school year, working two hours a week with UI scientists. They will also participate in the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C., in February, presenting their results alongside college students from across the nation.

  • Research
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

Physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have observed a magnetic phenomenon called the “anomalous spin-orbit torque” (ASOT) for the first time. Professor Virginia Lorenz and graduate student Wenrui Wang, now graduated and employed as an industry scientist, made this observation, demonstrating that there exists competition between what is known as spin-orbit coupling and the alignment of an electron spin to the magnetization. This can be thought of as analogous to the anomalous Hall effect (AHE). 

  • Research
  • Outreach

Illinois Physics Professor Barry Bradlyn and his colleague, State University of New York at Binghamton Computer Science Professor Jeremy Blackburn, have been awarded a Facebook research grant to trace the propagation and dissemination of hate speech on social media.

  • Partnerships

The Chicago Quantum Exchange, a growing intellectual hub for the research and development of quantum technology, has expanded its community to include new industry partners working at the forefront of quantum technology and research. These corporate partners are Boeing, Applied Materials, Inc., ColdQuanta, Inc., HRL Laboratories LLC and Quantum Opus LLC.

Together, the Chicago Quantum Exchange and its new industry partners will focus on developing a new understanding of the rules of quantum mechanics, leading to breakthroughs in quantum devices, materials and computing techniques.

Based at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Chicago Quantum Exchange is anchored by the University of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (both operated for DOE by the University of Chicago), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and includes the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University.

  • In the Media
  • Alumni News

Oscar Rodrigo Araiza Bravo, a 2014 MHS graduate, recently was granted a full scholarship to Harvard University to earn a PhD in physics. He graduated with a straight A average from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign with degrees in mathematics and engineering physics.

After completing doctoral studies he hopes to become a college professor who does both teaching and research. “I enjoy teaching. If you ever want to find out whether or not you know a subject, teach it,” Araiza Bravo said.

  • In the Media

There have been accusations for years that the Major League ball is “juiced,” thus accounting for the increasing power numbers.

MLB officials have categorically denied that, and last year, commissioned a study of the baseball and how it’s produced.

In the landmark 85-page independent report replete with color graphs, algorithms and hypotheses, a group of 10 highly-rated professors and scientists chaired by Alan Nathan determined that the ball is not livelier or “juiced.” Nathan is a professor emeritus of physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

The surge in home runs “seems, instead, to have arisen from a decrease in the ball’s drag properties, which cause it to carry further than previously, given the same set of initial conditions – exit velocity, launch and spray angle, and spin. So, there is indirect evidence that the ball has changed, but we don’t yet know how,” wrote Leonard Mlodinow, in the report’s eight-page executive summary.

  • In the Media

Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Kandice Tanner went to a school where she was one of only a dozen girls among 1200 pupils. She had switched from an all-girl school to avoid the distractions of socializing and to take the more advanced math classes offered at the boys’ school. “Being submerged in an all-male environment early on was beneficial to me,” Tanner says. “I felt comfortable with guys, and more important, I knew I could hold my own in a male-dominated environment.”

  • Research
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Illinois Physics Professor Philip Phillips and Math Professor Gabriele La Nave have theorized a new kind of electromagnetism far beyond anything conceivable in classical electromagnetism today, a conjecture that would upend our current understanding of the physical world, from the propagation of light to the quantization of charge. Their revolutionary new theory, which Phillips has dubbed “fractional electromagnetism,” would also solve an intriguing problem that has baffled physicists for decades, elucidating emergent behavior in the “strange metal” of the cuprate superconductors.

This research is published in an upcoming colloquium paper in Reviews of Modern Physics (arXiv:1904.01023v1).