Graduate Student Physics Seminar, PHYS 6/8020 -- Spring 2009

Course Information

Instructor: Randy J. Ellingson

Physics Seminar develops the skills and practices essential to preparing and delivering excellent scientific presentations.

Class Schedule
Wednesdays from 4-5 pm in MH 4009. There will be 15 classes, beginning with Jan. 14, 2009. There will be no class March 11 (Spring Break). The last class is scheduled for April 29, 2009.

--> Speakers and Topics Schedule

Course Objectives – Learning to…

  1. research a topic for a specific scientific presentation, and to choose and organize content to deliver an effective and engaging talk;
  2. prepare a suitable introduction and include additional information necessary to bring your audience as close as possible to your level of understanding;
  3. use PowerPoint or equivalent software to prepare effective and coherent presentation material to convey the information on your topic;
  4. deliver excellent scientific presentations, based on a solid understanding of the material covered, knowledge of your audience, and inclusion of any sources referenced;
  5. handle questions from the audience after the presentation; preparation is essential to performing well and to handling questions effectively.

Deadlines (more information below):

General information, guidelines, and requirements:

Additional considerations:

  1. In order to avoid disrupting the presentation or discussion, please turn off sound on any electronic devices while in class; in general, maintain an environment conducive to learning in the classroom, and participate enthusiastically in questions and comments;
  2. Please do not bring any food or drinks inside the classroom;
  3. If you have any disabilities hindering your ability to follow any of these rules and/or request any special considerations, bring them to the attention of the instructor immediately.

Topics for Physics Seminar, Spring 2009

Please choose from among those topics in black font (those is red have been taken).

  1. Transportation: Comparing the energy and pollution implications of bicycling, walking, or driving to/from school or work. Assume reasonable travel distance; present calculations regarding total weekly energy consumption for each mode, typical CO2 and other pollutant emissions, calories burned, and equivalent food/fuel cost. Determine the energy required to fabricate a bicycle, and the energy required to manufacture a pair of sneakers. How much waste heat is generated by a typical gasoline-powered automobile engine?
  2. Manufacturing: Determine as near as possible the energy required to assemble an average automobile, discussing the physical basis for energy required in each major step (mining, steel production, etc.). Provide an estimate of the uncertainty associated with your final number, and compare this with the annual energy consumption due to driving a typical car. Also, what is the marginal mpg cost of adding 100 lbs. to an average car?
  3. Transportation: Present a careful analysis of the actual carbon impact of airplane travel. Detail the fuel efficiency of commercial-scale passenger jets: how much fuel does an empty jet use? What is the incremental (fuel or energy, and $) cost to add 1 kg to a nominally-full jet? What fraction of the empty jet is the fuel (empty of people, but full of fuel)? Present careful parameters for your analysis, including weights, distance, etc. How does the rate of fuel use vary with take-off, landing, and cruising (provide quantitative information)?
  4. Electricity generation: Discuss the topic of average carbon content of US electricity production, including an analysis of each form of electrical power generation. Provide an analysis of how each source of carbon emissions, resulting directly from electrical power generation, contributes to the overall carbon intensity. How do these numbers compare to those of India? China? Denmark? Canada?
  5. Lighting: Fluorescent lighting technology; Present the physical basis for operation of fluorescent lights, and what purpose does the “ballast” serve? Explain the efficiency (typical, best), and what determines that efficiency. How much energy is required to produce a standard 48” fluorescent tube bulb used for indoor lighting? What is the spectrum of a typical fluorescent light, and what determines the spectrum? Does it make sense based on energy consumption to turn off fluorescent lights in a room during a five minute absence? What is the lifetime of a typical fluorescent bulb, and how does this compare to the competition?
  6. Heating: Present an analysis of energy loss through various building materials, such as a single layer of brick, an insulated “two by six” wall, and a typical double-paned sealed window. Describe R values and provide an example of how to calculate an estimate of the R value based on measurable physical parameters. How are R values measured?
  7. Transportation: Carbon impact implications (and overall efficiency loss) of fossil fuel transport to point of use, for natural gas, petroleum fuels, and coal for electricity production.
  8. Manufacturing: Energy expenditure required for manufacturing the glass substrate used in present-day CdTe solar cells. What is the approximate payback period for this component of the solar cell module, assuming installation in Toledo, OH (and Toledo’s average solar insolation)? How does the number change depending on the average annual solar insolation in Beijing, China (ignore PV module transport costs), or Baghdad, Iraq (again, ignoring transport costs)?
  9. Lighting: Describe the physical principles of LED-based lighting. Discuss the physical limits on efficiency for today’s technology. Discuss the need, if any, for optics to play a role in directing or delivering light. What is the spectrum of a typical LED light, and what determines the spectrum? What is the lifetime of a typical LED bulb for home or industrial lighting, and how does this compare to the competition?
  10. Heating: Present a careful comparison of the energy and dollar costs associated with using electrical vs. gas forced-air, including the entire energy required for production and delivery of the electricity or natural gas, and the efficiency of heat generation.
  11. Buildings: Present an analysis of the heat capture through a 1 m2 window, assuming full solar access and optimal southern orientation, during the month of January, for Denver, CO vs. Toledo, OH. Consider the cases of all of the sunlight falling incident on (1) a white carpet compared to (2) a black carpet, estimating the effective reflection coefficient.
  12. Buildings: A standard elevator car is linked to a counterweight via a pulley system, and operates under the drive power of an electric motor for ascent; braking is required to stop the descent of an elevator car. Present a description of how elevators work, and a physical analysis of the energy use of electrically-powered elevators. Discuss the design of a “hybrid elevator, and the potential (quantitative) benefits of using a hybrid technology to generate power during descent.
  13. Buildings: Determine the amount of heat energy used by the University of Toledo’s main campus, categorized by source (electric heat, combustion-based heat, and incidental heat from computers, lights, motors, etc.). Estimate the actual UT main campus cost during a typical December of these various heating methods, and describe the procedure for estimating the cost savings associated with reducing the set-point temperature of all buildings by 0.5 C.
  14. Buildings: Address the operation and energy consumption of elevators and escalators. How much energy do elevators and escalators use? Provide a strategy for estimating the energy requirements, noting any efficiency aspects that go into the design, and take the audience through the key issues that lead you to the quantitative information. Be sure to delineate the assumptions and/or parameters for the energy use values (e.g., running the escalator empty or full, and for elevators, a typical day of use in a 10-story building).
  15. Theoretical/computational techniques: Describe the technique of density functional theory (DFT), and provide examples of its application. Identify and explain the technique’s strengths and weakness. If you are an experienced user of DFT, be very careful to bring your audience to the highest possible level of understanding without leaving anyone behind on “page 1”.
  16. Effective mass: Address from a fundamental level the concept of “effective mass”. Provide meaning for the term through a carefully-thought-out conceptual description. Provide numerical values and examples of extreme effective mass values. How is effective mass used, and describe its relationship to other relevant physical parameters.
  17. Nanomaterials: Physical properties of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals (NCs). Discuss briefly how colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals are synthesized. Choose a specific semiconductor material, and NC size, and present information on the NC weight (with and without the typical surfactant), volume (with and without the typical surfactant), etc. What determines the NC’s optical properties (light absorption and emission)? Demonstrate how one could experimentally determine the value of the light absorption coefficient for a sample of similarly-sized NCs starting with a solution sample of a specific size (choose something under 10 nm).
  18. Nanomaterials: Physical properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). Discuss the synthesis, preparation, structure, variation, labeling, and electronic structure (incl. energy-dependent density of states) of different types of SWNTs. Describe the procedure you use to estimate the lineal mass and area of a specific type ((n, m) species) of SWNT, and include quantitative values.
  19. Nonlinear optics: Describe the physical basis for the nonlinear optical processes of (phasematched) second harmonic generation (SHG), sum-frequency generation (SFG), and difference frequency generation (DFG). Obtain the Sellmeier coefficients for BBO, and show how to calculate the phasematching angle dependence on the fundamental wavelength for SHG in BBO. Describe the limiting wavelength range for SHG in BBO.
  20. Nanomaterials: Density of states in nanomaterials. Introduce the concept of density of states, and discuss the behavior of the DOS for bulk semiconductors and for those confined to 0D (quantum dots), 1-D (nanowires), 2-D (quantum wells).
  21. Materials: Describe the physical basis for ferroelectricity and ferroelectric materials, including all important concepts. Provide quantitative information, and discuss the instrumentation used for preparing and studying ferroelectrics.
  22. Optics: Provide an overview of optical fibers, including the essential physical properties that govern their operation. Describe the difference between single-mode and multi-mode fibers. Address the concepts of group velocity and phase velocity of light in a medium, using BK7 glass as a basis for quantitative values. Describe the so-called zero-dispersion point.
  23. Thermoelectrics: Address the basic principles of thermoelectric energy conversion. Describe the thermoelectric figure of merit, what physical properties of a material determine that, and how researchers are trying to optimize thermoelectric energy conversion. Be sure to convey a strong conceptual understanding in addition to quantitative values for the relevant parameters. Provide quantitative information on the conversion efficiency, and regarding the scales at which the technology can be practically applied – what temperatures are required, and can thermoelectrics generate meaningful power from waste heat in, e.g., a car?
  24. “Pathological” science: Address the ever-present possibility for scientific research leading down illusory paths; describe the background of the terminology, other names for the issue, and how it can occurs. Choose an example of scientific research (e.g., polywater, water memory, N-rays, or cold fusion) that led to great excitement only later to be largely or completely dismissed by the scientific community. For the example chosen, provide a careful description of the issue, the potential significance for the effect, and the physical evidence that led to an improved understanding, a reassessment and disillusionment with the original conclusions. Describe why the research was challenging, or why the incorrect understanding persisted as long as it did. For the examples not chosen, please provide a brief description of those topics. Also, describe the fictitious notion of Ice-nine.