Synchrotron Laboratory Welcomes New Particle Accelerator Module


Correction appended

Last month, the basement of Newman Laboratory opened to transport a distinctive red pipe containing the Main Linac Cyromodule — a prototype designed to accelerate particles with unparalleled energy efficiency — across campus. Now housed inside the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory, the MLC is the latest addition to Cornell’s own particle accelerator located under Alumni Field.

The MLC is the product of over twenty thousand hours of work within Newman Lab, built and designed with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore technologies for use in the next generation of particle accelerators. Its seven superconducting cavities funnel energy into particle beams to help scientists study, basic building blocks of matter, solid state physics and even human biology.

“The topic of this research and development program was to build a very efficient sort of conducting accelerator. This is what the MLC is,” said Prof. Ralf Eichhorn, phyics, a key scientist on the project who headed the accelerator department of the technical university of Darmstadt before coming to Cornell in summer 2012.

Particle accelerator modules of a similar construction and purpose require liquid helium to keep their superconducting components at less that two degrees celsius above absolute zero. Liquid helium requires large amounts of energy to produce, so cryogenic modules require much more energy to cool than they impart into their particle beams, according to Eich­horn.

“This cryogenic module is beyond the state of the art accelerator cryogenic module in terms of efficiency,” Eich­horn said.

The MLC’s transport through campus drew as much concern from its creators as it did confused glances from onlookers.

“This module was designed to be operated in a fixed location. The more you try to constrain the cold mass, the thing that is inside the cryo module, the more possibilities you add to bring heat into the module,” explained Eichhorn.

To read the entire Cornell Daily Sun article, click here.


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Paul McEuen was elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Paul McEuen, a faculty member since 2001, is the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. He leads a nanotechnology lab researching electrical, mechanical and optical properties of carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets; scanned probe microscopy of nanostructures; and applications for nanoelectronics in chemistry and biology. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Ambegaokar wins Bardeen Prize for physics

Vinay Ambegaokar, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics Emeritus, has been awarded the 2015 John Bardeen Prize in recognition of his theoretical research, which has substantially advanced understanding of unique and fundamental features of superconductivity. The late Bardeen is the only person to be awarded two Nobel Prizes in physics.

Nobel laureate Anthony J. Leggett, chair of the Bardeen Prize Committee, noted that Ambegaokar was recognized for his contributions to the statics, dynamics and kinetics of Josephson junctions and nanowires, which are devices that can carry a certain amount of electrical current without any resistance. They are extremely sensitive detectors of magnetic fields and are used in applications as diverse as brain research, astronomy and cosmology.

“Professor Ambegaokar developed theoretical methods for calculating the limiting amount of current that such systems can carry while still maintaining a zero-resistance state,” said Jeevak Parpia, Cornell professor and chair of physics. “He and his colleagues were the first to correctly predict their temperature dependence and to understand the dominant mechanisms that limit the amount of zero-resistance current that a nanowire can carry.”

In June 1963, Ambegaokar, with his student Alexis Baratoff, published the first calculation of the temperature dependence of the Josephson current, named after Welsh theoretical physicist Brian Josephson. Ambegaokar originally had set out to disprove Josephson’s calculations – after learning of Bardeen’s skepticism over the same – but Ambegaokar’s calculations agreed with Josephson’s. Prior to publishing his findings, Ambegaokar corresponded with Bardeen, who called his calculation elegant but incorrect. The Josephson current was experimentally detected that summer, and Bardeen conceded.

Low temperature and condensed matter physics are Ambegaokar’s main areas of interest. He has produced seminal theoretical work in the areas of superconductivity and superfluidity, or frictionless matter flow in liquid helium without resistance. His current work focuses on aspects of disordered metallic conductors, quantum information and its loss through decoherence, and mathematical ways of describing these phenomena.

Ambegaokar received a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1956 from the mechanical engineering honors program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in 1960 in theoretical physics from the Carnegie Institute of Technology. His many honors include the Medal of the University of Helsinki and the Medal of the Collège de France. He has been a fellow of the American Physical Society since 1979.

The Bardeen Prize is sponsored by the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and by the Friends of Bardeen. The prize is presented triennially for theoretical work that has provided significant insights on the nature of superconductivity and has led to verifiable predictions. It will be presented to Ambegaokar Aug. 24 during the 11th International Conference on Materials and Mechanisms of Superconductivity in Geneva, Switzerland.

Cornell Chronicle

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Student business owners prep for week of competitions

Entrepreneurial students across campus are sharpening their pitches this week and next before a two-day stretch featuring three business presentations, competitions and awards ceremonies.

All are part of Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Celebration conference, April 16-17, which will bring more than 200 alumni back to campus for two days of networking, panel discussions and speakers celebrating everything entrepreneurial at Cornell.

Caroline Donelan’s big idea is a smart-shirt with heart rate sensors in the material synced to the wearer’s music library. The shirt would select music according to the person’s rate of activity.

“As a designer and a runner, I naturally thought of ideas that apply to functional and athletic apparel,” said. “And personally, I would love a smart-shirt that chooses my running playlist for me as I go, so that I can focus on the road ahead of me during my run.”

Click here to read the rest of the Cornell Chronicle article by Kathy Hovis.


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Physicists energized about restart of Large Hadron Collider

When Kevin McDermott and Susan Dittmer talk about what they might discover when their particle detector goes back online in Switzerland, it’s a little like talking to a 5-year-old on Christmas Eve.

There’s a twinkle in their eyes, and it’s hard to keep them from literally fidgeting in their seats. These Cornell physics graduate students have grand ideas for what they might find once their detector, the Compact Muon Solenoid at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), begins recording data again later this year – new particles, evidence of supersymmetry, an explanation for dark matter and extra dimensions may be discovered.

“It would be great if new particles were showing up every day,” McDermott said. “Even if just one of them showed up.”

Click here to read the entire Cornell Chronicle article by Kathy Hovis.


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Three alumni win million euro Brain Prize

The 1 million euro Brain Prize has been awarded to four scientists – three of them Cornell alumni – for their groundbreaking work with two-photon microscopy: Winfried Denk, Ph.D. ’89, Karel Svoboda ’88, David Tank, M.S. ’80, Ph.D. ’83, and Arthur Konnerth. All three graduates – who studied math, physics and applied and engineering physics at Cornell – worked in the laboratory of Watt Webb, professor emeritus of applied and engineering physics, where multiphoton microscopy for biological applications was pioneered.

“These alumni embody the ‘Webb Group’ style of mixing physics, engineering and biology together to achieve their goal,” says Warren R. Zipfel, associate professor of biomedical engineering and a former Webb research associate. “For decades, Watt’s lab was the place to be at Cornell if you loved playing with lasers and optics and applying them to biological questions.”

Zipfel still has the world’s first two-photon microscope in a case near his office, built by Denk out of an early confocal microscope “scanbox.” Denk took the first two-photon microscopy images with the help of Frank Wise, the Samuel B. Eckert Professor of Engineering, who built the femtosecond laser needed to make two-photon microscopy work.

Solving the mystery of how circuits in the brain produce behavior, thoughts and feelings is one of the most important scientific frontiers in the 21st century. Two-photon microscopy is a transformative tool in brain research, combining advanced techniques from physics and biology to allow scientists to examine the finest structures of the brain in real time.

“We’re very proud of the work these alumni are doing,” says Lois Pollack, director and professor of applied and engineering physics. “They are examples for the next generation of students we are now training, who work at the interface between the life sciences and the physical, computational and engineering sciences.”

“These recipients of the Brain Prize reflect Cornell’s long history of fruitful collaborations across campus,” adds Andrew Bass, professor of neurobiology and behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences and senior associate vice provost for research. “We know that the technological breakthroughs and discoveries needed to understand and combat neurological diseases and disorders will come from interdisciplinary interactions and ground-breaking discoveries in basic, fundamental science between neurobiologists, engineers, computational biologists, physicists and chemists.”

The Brain Prize, for scientists making an outstanding contribution to European neuroscience and who are still active in research, will be presented May 7 in Copenhagen by Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.


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Lighted clothing that flashes to beat of music will hit runaway


These clothes soon may be all the rave: Fiber science and physics students have teamed to create fashionable “smart” garments with vivid, luminescent panels that pulse to music.

Undergraduates will model “Irradiance” – a collection of electrogarments designed by Eric Beaudette ’16, fiber science; Lina Sanchez Botero, graduate student in the field of fiber science; and Neal Reynolds, graduate student in the field of physics – on the runway at the Cornell Fashion Collective, Saturday, April 11, at 8 p.m. at Barton Hall.

To read the full Cornell Chronicle article, click here.

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Princeton Professor Gives Lecture on Physics in Nature


Prof. William Bialek, physics, Princeton University, spoke Wednesday evening about how biological creatures have developed to operate near the limits that the laws of physics allow as part of the the Hans Bethe Lecture Series.

The evening began with Bialek honoring Hans Bethe, a long-time Cornell professor. According to Bialek, Bethe greatly influenced the scientific community.

“Somebody once said about Hans Bethe that he has done so many different things that one would not be surprised to learn if there were many people whose name was Hans Bethe,” Bialek said.

Bialek also said “sophisticated algorithms” in fields like computer science rely on Bethe’s work.

After speaking about Bethe’s research about stars, Bialek said he hoped that the evening’s lecture would captivate the audience.

“I hope you will find some of the phenomenon that I talk about this evening as romantic as Bethe found the stars,” he said.

Throughout the evening, Bialek gave examples of “biological system[s] pushing right at the edge of what the laws of physics allow.”

Bialek cited bats’ use of echolocation as an example of the phenomenon.

To read the entire Cornell Daily Sun article, click here.

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