News and Events

Rob Etherington and Mark Mortenson
Please join us for a colloquium titled “Nanocatalysis—a new pharmaceutical treatment for neurodegenerative diseases achieved by using an intersection between physics, biology, electrochemistry and materials science” at 12:00 PM online, or in C215 ESC.
Thumbnail of Tagging Bennu
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's arm reached out and touched asteroid 101955 Bennu on October 20, 2020, after a careful approach to the small, near-Earth asteroid's boulder-strewn surface. Dubbed a Touch-And-Go (TAG) sampling event, the 30 centimeter wide sampling head (TAGSAM) appears to crush some of the rocks in this close-up recorded by the spacecraft's SamCam. The image was snapped just after surface contact some 321 million kilometers from planet Earth. One second later, the spacecraft fired nitrogen gas from a bottle intended to blow a substantial amount of Bennu's regolith into the sampling head, collecting the loose surface material. And now, nearly three years later, on Sunday, September 24, that sample of asteroid Bennu is scheduled to arrive on planet Earth. The sample return capsule will be dropped off by the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft as it makes a close flyby of Earth. Twenty minutes after the drop-off, the spacecraft will fire its thrusters to divert past Earth and continue on to orbit near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis.
Mount Timpanogos with sky above
Check current conditions and historical weather data at the ESC.
Image for West Mountain Observatory contributes to understand distant galaxy
BYU’s West Mountain Observatory was one of 37 ground-based telescopes throughout the world monitoring the active galaxy that is roughly 1 billion light years away.
Image for BYU Women in Physics Students Thrive at CUWiP
Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics provides support and opportunities for female BYU physics students
Image for New Faculty Member, Dr. Micah Shepherd
Dr. Micah Shepherd, Acoustic Physicist, joins faculty

Selected Publications

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BYU Authors: Logan T. Mathews, Mark C. Anderson, Carson D. Gardner, Bradley W. McLaughlin, and Kent L. Gee, published in Proc. Meet. Acoust.

On 10 November 2022, measurements were made of the Atlas V JPSS-2 rocket launch from SLC-3E at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. Measurements were made at 11 stations from distances of 200 m to 7 km from the launch pad. Measurement locations were arranged at various azimuthal angles relative to the rocket to investigate possible noise asymmetry. This paper discusses preliminary results from this measurement including overall levels, temporal and spectral characteristics, evidence of nonlinear propagation, and potential azimuthal asymmetry effects.

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BYU Authors: Johnathon Rackham, Brittni Pratt, Dalton Griner, Dallin Smith, Yanping Cai, Roger G. Harrison, Mark K. Transtrum, and Karine Chesnel, published in Phys. Rev. B

We report on magnetic orderings of nanospins in self-assemblies of Fe3O4 nanoparticles (NPs), occurring at various stages of the magnetization process throughout the superparamagnetic (SPM)-blocking transition. Essentially driven by magnetic dipole couplings and by Zeeman interaction with a magnetic field applied out-of-plane, these magnetic orderings include a mix of long-range parallel and antiparallel alignments of nanospins, with the antiparallel correlation being the strongest near the coercive point below the blocking temperature. The magnetic ordering is probed via x-ray resonant magnetic scattering (XRMS), with the x-ray energy tuned to the Fe−L3 edge and using circular polarized light. By exploiting dichroic effects, a magnetic scattering signal is isolated from the charge scattering signal. We measured the nanospin ordering for two different sizes of NPs, 5 and 11 nm, with blocking temperatures TB of 28 and 170 K, respectively. At 300 K, while the magnetometry data essentially show SPM and absence of hysteresis for both particle sizes, the XRMS data reveal the presence of nonzero (up to 9%) antiparallel ordering when the applied field is released to zero for the 11 nm NPs. These antiparallel correlations are drastically amplified when the NPs are cooled down below TB and reach up to 12% for the 5 nm NPs and 48% for the 11 nm NPs, near the coercive point. The data suggest that the particle size affects the prevalence of the antiparallel correlations over the parallel correlations by a factor ∼1.6 to 3.8 higher when the NP size increases from 5 to 11 nm.

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BYU Authors: Behnam Moeini, David T. Fullwood, Paul Minson, Morris D. Argyle, Richard Vanfleet, and Matthew R. Linford, published in Surf. Coat. Technol.

Understanding processing-structure-property (PSP) linkages of solid-phase microextraction (SPME) coating materials is crucial for the rational design and advancement of these new materials. As SPME is a diffusion-based extraction technique, analyzing the morphology of its coating materials is important for optimizing its performance. In this study, we assess the morphological evolution of micro/mesoporous amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin films sputtered at an oblique angle onto silicon, which serve as models for support materials in SPME devices. The contrast of scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) images is enhanced via ZnO infiltration by atomic layer deposition (ALD). Various metrics, including physical descriptors and two-point statistics methods, are employed to follow the films' evolution. Analysis of the two-point correlation function reveals a simple ellipse/spherical local pore geometry in contrast to the long-range irregular arrangement of pores identified by a range of traditional and novel metrics. Additionally, analyzing the internal structure of the pores through homology metrics aligns well with the theoretical understanding of morphological evolution in oblique sputtered films. These analyses show that the “average ratio of principal moment of inertia”, “Betti numbers”, and “two-point statistics” based metrics can capture valuable information during film growth.

The morphological analysis approach proposed in this study can be applied to analyze any nanoporous medium as a first step towards developing structure-property relationships that tie back to a given preparation method. Ultimately, a more extensive experimental and/or simulation-based study should confirm the correlations between these metrics and actual diffusion properties as the basis for process-structure-properties relations for improved design and optimization of this film.

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BYU Authors: Katrina Pedersen, Mark K. Transtrum, and Kent L. Gee, published in J. Acoust. Soc. Am.

Modeling environmental sound levels over continental scales is difficult due to the variety of geospatial environments. Moreover, current continental-scale models depend upon machine learning and therefore face additional challenges due to limited acoustic training data. In previous work, an ensemble of machine learning models was used to predict environmental sound levels in the contiguous United States using a training set composed of 51 geospatial layers (downselected from 120) and acoustic data from 496 geographic sites from Pedersen, Transtrum, Gee, Lympany, James, and Salton [JASA Express Lett. 1(12), 122401 (2021)]. In this paper, the downselection process, which is based on factors such as data quality and inter-feature correlations, is described in further detail. To investigate additional dimensionality reduction, four different feature selection methods are applied to the 51 layers. Leave-one-out median absolute deviation cross-validation errors suggest that the number of geospatial features can be reduced to 15 without significant degradation of the model's predictive error. However, ensemble predictions demonstrate that feature selection results are sensitive to variations in details of the problem formulation and, therefore, should elicit some skepticism. These results suggest that more sophisticated dimensionality reduction techniques are necessary for problems with limited training data and different training and testing distributions.

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BYU Authors: R. Steven Turley, published in PLoS One

One of the primary reasons why students leave STEM majors is due to the poor quality of instruction. Teaching practices can be improved through professional development programs; however, several barriers exist. Creating lasting change by overcoming these barriers is the primary objective of the STEM Faculty Institute (STEMFI). STEMFI was designed according to the framework established by Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior. To evaluate its effectiveness, the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) tool was used before and after an intensive year-long faculty development program and analyzed using, a tool that classifies each COPUS report into one of three instructional styles: didactic, interactive lecture, and student-centered. We report the success of our program in changing faculty teaching behaviors and we categorize them into types of reformers. Then, thematically coded post-participation interviews give us clues into the characteristics of each type of reformer. Our results demonstrate that faculty can significantly improve the student-centeredness of their teaching practices in a relatively short time. We also discuss the implications of faculty attitudes for future professional development efforts.

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BYU Authors: Adam D. Kingsley, Andrew Basham, and Brian E. Anderson, published in J. Acoust. Soc. Am.

Time reversal focusing above an array of resonators creates subwavelength–sized features when compared to wavelengths in free space. Previous work has shown the ability to focus acoustic waves near the resonators with and without time reversal with an array placed coplanar with acoustic sources, principally using direct sound emissions. In this work, a two-dimensional array of resonators is studied with a full three-dimensional aperture of waves in a reverberation chamber and including significant reverberation within the time reversed emissions. The full impulse response is recorded, and the spatial inverse filter is used to produce a focus among the resonators. Additionally, images of complex sources are produced by extending the spatial inverse filter to create focal images, such as dipoles and quadrupoles. Although waves at oblique angles would be expected to degrade the focal quality, it is shown that complex focal images can still be achieved with super resolution fidelity when compared to free space wavelengths.