Physics colloquium draws big name to UTK

The Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) began its physics colloquium series by welcoming Peng Xiong to Circle Park Sept. 15, to discuss his research on lead and superconductivity.

Dr. Peng Xiong (Florida State Dept. of Physics)
Dr. Peng Xiong
(Florida State Dept. of Physics)

Xiong, a physics professor at Florida State University, spoke to students and professors for over an hour about  the history of superconductivity, focusing on conventional superconductivity with dimensional confinement and quantum phase transition. Along with how lead can be used as an insulator when made into ultra-thin sheets.

Ryan Raul, a student and Ph.D. candidate studying condensed matter physics, was excited to attend the colloquium due to Xiong’s research in superconductivity overlaps with what he has been studying.

“It was nice to see his data and experiments backing up what theories I have been told in my classes,” he said.

Further, Raul said he was excited to learn about phase destruction and phase disruption, something he hadn’t learned before, and was glad that Xiong came to Knoxville and shared his experimental findings with UT students.

Finishing his discussion, Xiong took questions from the audience.

Today’s colloquium was one of many in a series of talks the Physics Department will be holding at the SERF Building this semester.

The next colloquium is scheduled to take place with Randy Fishman of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory coming to speak in a lecture titled “Using Inelastic Scattering Measurements to Determine the Complex Spin States of Multiferroic Materials,” in SERF, Sept. 22, at 3:30 p.m., Rm. 307.

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt. 

New LED lights brighten the floor at Thompson-Boling

Photo by Ryan McGill
Photo by Ryan McGill

The University of Tennessee tested Oak Ridge National Laboratory-based LED lights at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday, Feb. 24. The new light fixtures will replace the current conventional metal halide lights, generating more energy savings per watt.

“The success of these lights will be a game changer,” Andrew Wilhelm, president of LED North America, said.

Wilhelm said the new lighting development has global potential, and is excited his partnership with UT and Bandit Lites features one of the world’s first showcases of SuperSport luminaires at Thompson-Boling.

The 90 LED lights, provided by Bandit Lites, are replacing the arena’s existing 110 lights under the arena catwalk. The new lights are 85 percent more efficient, using 400 watts compared to the 1,100 watts used previously.  The result is whiter, brighter hue and the ability to isolate lighting to the arena floor and any other area the operator chooses. The new concentrated control over each light will allow operators to generate lighting scenes for player introductions during games.

Each light has its own microprocessor which allows the operator to control individual lights or sectors.

The new lights, operable from a tablet, can turn on, dim, intensify, switch presets and shut down in seconds.  Previous shutter lights require a cooling period of 15 to 20 minutes, while still using energy.

The SuperSport luminaires incorporate cutting edge technology to cool the lights, curbing the concern of overheating that is associated with LEDs.

The lights are constructed with graphite foam inside created by ORNL. This foam pulls the heat from the LEDs, eliminating the need for a heavy aluminum heat-sink used in traditional fixtures.  This makes them smaller and one-fifth lighter, weighing in at 22 pounds as opposed to 100 pound fixtures often used in arenas today.

The lights also have seven built-in temperature probes in each LED for monitoring heat.

“It allows us to preemptively go in there and troubleshoot to make sure we maintain that light quality for the university,” Wilhelm said. “Managing the temperature is critical.”

The graphite foam was discovered by Dr. James Klett of ORNL. LED North America and Bandit Lites expressed pride in their product being funded from East Tennessee sources, as well as developed, built and accepted in East Tennessee.

“We are happy to be a partner in this venture and to work with the lab and local business on an energy initiative that could impact facilities across the world,” Jeff Maples, UT’s vice chancellor of finance and administration, said.

Kickoff to showcase the new lights will take place Saturday, March 1, during the UT men’s basketball game against Vanderbilt at noon.

Edited by Maggie Jones

Historian speaks of stories from the Secret City

The second installment of the UT Science Forum presented Y-12 Historian Ray Smith on Friday. Smith has occupied the position for the last five years and is the first person ever to hold it.

Smith has been involved at the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for 43 years. Smith is described as a natural rhetorician and storyteller, qualities that are important, because he is now the official historian of the facility. Smith presented his stories, his history and the history of Oak Ridge, each topic inseparable from the other when recalling the history of the Y-12 facility.

“There were thousands of trailers in Oak Ridge at the time…it was the fifth largest city in the state in 1945. The fifth largest city in the state wasn’t on any map,” said Smith.

He worked at the facility as an electrician and later became an associate director of maintenance. When a change in ownership eliminated his position, he used some calculated maneuvering to prove to be indispensible at Y-12, effectively creating the historian position for himself.

Since becoming historian, Smith has written eight books and helped publish five photo books. He has made several films, most notably one entitled A Nuclear Family, considered to be the definitive history of Oak Ridge.

Smith centered his stories on the people involved in the town and the facility’s involvement in atomic weapons. His lecture included a detailed summary of John Hendricks, known as the Prophet of Oak Ridge, who foresaw both the creation of the Y-12 facility and its role in national history. He also spoke of the more conventional historical figures such as General Leslie Groves and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Oak Ridge had 75,000 people living there, nearly all of them connected to the Y-12 facility. His lecture was accented by the photography of Ed Westcott who documented the workers at Y-12.


Edited by Nichole Stevens 




Professor is ‘changing the world with polymer chemistry’

Dr. Jimmy Mays explains the applications of thermoplastic elastomers during an installment of the UT Science Forum
Dr. Jimmy Mays explains the applications of thermoplastic elastomers during an installment of the UT Science Forum

Dr. Jimmy Mays,  a Professor of Chemistry and ORNL Distinguished Scientist,  is making big changes in the world of polymers. He is stretching, quite literally, the applications of polymers in industry, science and society.

Friday, at the first installment of the UT Science Forum, Mays explained the importance of polymers and how he plans to use them to improve certain aspects of everyday life.

Mays said “we really, truly live in the age of polymers. If you just look around this room-the carpet on the floor, the table in front of you, the clothes you’re wearing, most of this is polymer, if not all of it.”

By altering the composition of polymers, Mays is able to produce what he calls “super polymers.” These polymers will be able to stretch further and withstand more force before breaking, essentially allowing for the production of better products.

His work has drawn international attention and he recently received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to develop cheaper, user-friendlier condoms to prevent the spread of disease and limit pregnancies.

When he heard the call from the Gates Foundation to develop a new generation of condoms he was intrigued. From the beginning, Mays has been interested in the production of condoms because it is a big market.

With this technology he envisions other products like extra-thin surgical gloves.

“If you can make a surgical glove thinner, what is that worth in the operating room?” Mays asked, insinuating the prospect of more successful operations with thinner gloves.

Mays is currently using super polymers to develop water filtration systems. They may be used to meet growing demand for clean waters supplies. Companies have recently shown interest in using the technology for less invasive hernia repair. He envisions several applications in the energy industry, as well, including the production of lighter car batteries.

When asked about the grant from the Gates Foundation, Mays answered, “week after next I’ll be out at the Gates Foundation in Seattle working with them on this, and who knows where that will go?”


Edited by Nichole Stevens