Department of Physics

Nanoscale Research

picture of Ben BeckBen Beck has been performing research in Dr. Kidd's group on nanoscale systems since August 2011. For his first project, Ben was analyzing ring-like structures composed of bundled nanowires. Nanowires are fiber-like structures that are hundreds of times thinner than a single hair, but can be a few millimeters long. Ben was attempting to learn how some of these nanowires can spontaneously roll themselves up into the shape of a ring or spool of thread. This is a very rare occurrence, with only a few known materials forming these shapes. The small circular structures could have very interesting magetic properties. However, at present only a small portion of the samples we create actually form rings. Hopefully Ben's work in this area will lead to a better understanding of how they are created and give insight into refining the growth process to yield a greater amount of these ring-like structures and enable one to manipulate them with magnetic fields.

His second project has been to use a scanning electron microscope, an instrument typically used to measure very small structures, to actually write three dimensional nanoscale features into layered dichalcogneide materials. The dichalcogenides are a class of materials of interest for applications ranging from advanced lubricants to rechargeable batteries, and the technique Ben is using could be important for creating ultra-small devices composed of these materials. The patterns Ben generates can be seen using a simple optical microscope, and he uses an atomic force microscope to measure their structural properties with precision down to a single molecule.

Nanoscale Box picAs a research assistant in the physics department, Ben has been able to learn many advanced experimental and analytical techniques that should serve him well whether he decides to pursue a career in scientific research or as an engineer working with advanced materials. He has already presented his research at a regional meeting of the American Physical Society and will be presenting more of his work at the Spring meeting of the Iowa Academy of Science. His work is supported by a SOAR grant from the College of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences and the "20 Best On-campus Internship" program at UNI. Additional funding for his work has come from a grant for study of Hydrogen Storage materials from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence which supports a collaboration between Dr's Tim Kidd, and Mike Roth of the Physics Department and Dr. Laura Strauss of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.