2019 REU Program

Nonequilibrium and Disorder Properties in Relaxor and Regular Ferroelectrics

Faculty Advisor: Eugene V Colla

Relaxors are dielectric materials with short-range ferroelectric order, but which do not develop long range ferroelectric order spontaneously at low electric field. Since the short-range order can re-orient in response to applied fields, they keep those high dielectric and piezoelectric constants over a broad temperature range, allowing them to be used for practical electromechanical transducers in many applications. Some regular ferroelectric like BaTiO3, KH2P04 and KD2PO4 show also some nonequilibrium properties similar to those observed in ferroelectric relaxors. These materials unlike the relaxors undergo the phase transition to long-range ferroelectric state and form the macroscopic domain pattern typical to all other ferroelectric. In the same time below critical temperature they show large low field dielectric susceptibility which cannot be explained by macroscopic domain dynamics. This high dielectric susceptibility state is not equilibrium and is the subject for aging -koll decreasing of the susceptibility in time. This project includes working on sample preparation, and measuring and analyzing dielectric and pyroelectric properties, investigation of ferroelectric domains using polarizing microscope. No prior experience necessary. This is a great hands-on experimental physics opportunity!

An Investigation in Quantum Nonlocality

Faculty Advisor: Eric Chitambar

Quantum nonlocality is a highly non-classical feature of multi-part quantum systems.  Recently much work has been devoted to understanding nonlocality as a resource in quantum information processing.  A basic and challenging question arises as to which quantum states can generate nonlocal correlations by local measurements, and which always yield measurement statistics that can be simulated by a local hidden variable model. In this research project, the student will first learn the basic definitions and mathematical properties of Bell inequalities and quantum nonlocality.  One goal will be to characterize all two-qubit quantum states that can violate the CHSH Inequality with a given level of detector inefficiency.  We will also consider the violation of higher-dimensional Bell Inequalities with limited classical communication assistance.

Cosmology from Above the Clouds

Faculty Advisor: Jeffrey P Filippini

Our group develops and uses novel instruments to tease out new details of fundamental physics and cosmic history from astrophysical observations. We are currently preparing hardware and software for the second flight of SPIDER, an ambitious instrument using cryogenic detectors to observe the cosmic microwave background - the afterglow of the Big Bang - from a balloon high above the Antarctic ice. We are also involved in development efforts for future ground, balloon, and space-based instruments. There are several possible student projects, including hardware construction and characterization and design simulations for future instrumentation. No specific skills are required, but some computer experience (especially in python) is useful.

Free Volume Reduction

Faculty Advisor: Martin Gruebele

Activity assays of the enzyme PGK to determine how its binding is affected by inert crowders. Free volume reduction is a physical mechanism by which cells can tune access of substrates to biomolecules. PGK is an enzyme with two domains, and thus particularly sensitive to volume effects inside the cell.

Widefield Intensified Fluorescence Imaging (WIFI)

Faculty Advisor: Martin Gruebele

Widefield Intensified Fluorescence Imaging (WIFI) is a technique that studies fluctuations of a few molecules inside live cells. Unlike FRAP (fluorescence recovery) or confocal microscopy, it can image the diffusion-reaction network inside a whole cell at once, providing a wealth of data on how biomolecules move and interact.

Laser-Cooling and Trapping of Atoms for the Production of Ultracold Molecules

Faculty Advisor: Bryce Gadway

This project will explore techniques for cooling and trapping neutral atoms for the synthesis of ultracold molecules. The undergraduate student will work with a graduate student to develop laser systems for the trapping and cooling of two species of atom, and will lead a project related to the generation of complex microwave signals for the coherent control of molecular rotation. In addition to learning about physical optics, atomic and molecular physics, and rf electronics, the student can also lead a theory project related to emergent behavior in collections of ultracold molecules.

Observational Cosmology

Faculty Advisor: Joaquin Daniel Vieira

Our group develops instrumentation and performs data analysis to study the origin and evolution of the Universe. Primarily, this is done by observing the cosmic microwave background (CMB) with the South Pole Telescope (SPT), but also includes observations of distant galaxies with Hubble and ALMA, and also preparing for future observations with JWST and building simulations to help design future space missions. We are also developing advanced cryogenic optics for future CMB experiments. Students will be given a choice of projects to work on upon arrival, and the skills learned will include data analysis, basic machining, soldering, and cryogenics.

Use Liquid Xenon Detector to Search for Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay

Faculty Advisor: Liang Yang

Understanding the properties of neutrinos is of fundamental importance to the nuclear and particle physics community. The search for neutrinoless double beta decay, an extremely rare decay process, can shed light on the absolute neutrino mass scale as well as the underlying mechanism for its mass generation. At UIUC, we are working to develop novel scintillation light sensors and associated low noise readout electronics for the next generation tonne scale liquid xenon detector.The student will have the opportunity to conduct experiments using a prototype liquid xenon detector to study their response to ionizing radiation, as well as testing the performance of various photon sensors and readout electronics in the liquid xenon detector.

Computational DNA Nanotechnology

Faculty Advisor: Aleksei Aksimentiev

The DNA origami method has brought nanometer-precision fabrication to molecular biology labs, offering myriads of potential applications in the fields of synthetic biology, biomolecular medicine, molecular computation, etc. Advancing the method further requires controlling self-assembly down to the atomic scale. This project aims at development of computational methods and tools for determining the atomic-scale structure of DNA origami objects, exploring new types of DNA origami materials and designing DNA nanostructures for drug delivery and nanopore sensing applications.

Development of a Zero Degree Calorimeter for the ATLAS Experiment at the LHC

Faculty Advisor: Matthias Grosse Perdekamp

The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN uses collisions of protons and Pb-ions to discover fundamental building blocs of matter and to study their interactions. The ATLAS Zero Degree Calorimeter (ZDC) observes the non-interacting nuclear fragments from Pb-Pb ion collisions. Through this observation the impact parameter of the nuclear collisions can be determined. The current ZDC operates at radiation doses beyond the levels tolerable by existing detector technology and requires regular repair. Our group is developing a novel liquid radiator based calorimeter that can be operated continuously under very high radiation exposure. The REU project will evaluate the optical properties of liquid radiators and wavelength shifting molecules used in the future ZDC and design and build a test device for liquid radiator stability measurements in the LHC tunnel.

Entanglement in Topological States of Matter Protected by Point Group Symmetries

Faculty Advisor: Taylor L Hughes

This theoretical project will explore properties of quantum entanglement in topological insulators and superconductors protected by spatial symmetries. We will consider the entanglement entropy and entanglement spectra and use these quantum informational measures to characterize these novel states of matter. We will learn some of the basic theory of topological insulators and entanglement and perform analytic and numerical calculations to study these systems. This project requires one semester of quantum mechanics and will involve numerical calculations so an ability to program in either Mathematica, MATLAB, C/C++, or FORTRAN is necessary to participate.

Nano-electronic devices

Faculty Advisor: Nadya Mason

The project involves fabricating and measuring nanostructures such as semiconductor nanowires and layered two-dimensional platelets. These materials are useful for the next generation of nano-electronic devices. The student will use a new nano-manipulator system to control the placement and configuration of nanowires and nano-plates. The student will study the devices using advanced tools such as atomic force microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. In addition, the student will work with a graduate student to perform electrical transport measurements on these devices.