eBriefing

From Crumpling Geometries to Graphene Materials: 5th Gotham-Metro Condensed Matter Meeting 2011

From Crumpling Geometries to Graphene Materials
Reported by
David Ruffner

Posted June 21, 2011

Presented By

Overview

Researchers in the field of condensed matter physics study phenomena that emerge from the interactions of systems with many degrees of freedom. In this spirit, the April 15, 2011, Gotham-Metro Condensed Matter Meeting at the New York Academy of Sciences brought together physicists from the New York metropolitan area to hear about each other's work and to share their own. At this graduate student-organized meeting, students, post-docs, and professors heard about cutting-edge research in the speaker presentations and poster session, and no less importantly, engaged in informal discussions throughout the day.

In the soft matter keynote address Tom Witten of the University of Chicago described the physics of crumpling. It turns out there is a fascinating interplay between geometry and physics in the seemingly mundane crumpling of a piece of paper. At first, it seems surprising that folds and vertices spontaneously form in the crumpled paper since locally they have a very high energy cost due to their large curvature. However, Witten explained, the global energy of the system is reduced by localizing the high curvature to the folds and vertices. This is an example of energy condensation, which is seen in many different fields, such as gravitational systems, turbulence, and phase transitions.

Paul McEuen of Cornell University spoke about advances in graphene physics in his hard matter keynote address. Graphene is a single atom-thick, highly ordered layer of carbon. It is a remarkable material, with interesting electric, optical, and mechanical properties. For instance electrons in graphene behave like relativistic Dirac particles, and the material's optical transmittance is determined by fundamental constants. McEuen described new fabrication methods for the material and explained how, mechanically, graphene sheets can behave like a drumhead. Finally McEuen explored possibilities for using graphene to make new advances in electronics or to help create a whole new field of nanotechnology and micro-machines.

Nobel laureate Philip W. Anderson of Princeton University spoke about and entertained questions regarding his experience searching for a deeper understanding of nature. He related some of the great biologist Francis Crick's thoughts about principles by which theorists should abide. One interesting conclusion is that many great discoveries are "Columbus" type discoveries. These discoveries are made precisely because there is some flaw in the logic of the approach, and the findings are not immediately appreciated for what they really are. One example he described was the discovery, made using an incorrect theory, of the A phase in superfluid 3He. Anderson recommended that one would do well to concentrate on the experimental anomalies, instead of sweeping them under the rug. In the anomalies are the clues that lead to the break-through discoveries, he said.

In addition to the keynote addresses there were student talks highlighting an array of interesting research going on around New York. These talks were shorter, which allowed for a greater range of topics to be discussed. In addition, these talks gave the audience the opportunity to query student and post-doc presenters on the specifics of the experiments they performed, and this line of questioning generated discussion about practicable directions for future research. One highlight of these presentations was the talk by Bryan Chen from the University of Pennsylvania who gave an interesting description of the topology of bubbles in a 2-D foam. Another highlight was the talk by Stefano Sacanna from New York University who described his work with cubic colloids and the physics of the crystals they can form.

Darya Aleinikava of CUNY, Staten Island, described superclimb (non-conservative motion (climb) assisted by superflow along its core) of dislocations in solid 4He. Senia Coh of Rutgers University discussed her work using direct and inverse photoemission to measure the electronic structure and energy level alignment of several zinc tetraphenylporphyrin derivatives adsorbed on TiO2 (110) and ZnO (11-20) surfaces. Arijeet Pal of Princeton University discussed the measures his group uses to probe some of the properties of the ergodic phase and the localized phase that arise in a generic, isolated, interacting quantum spin system at high energy densities. Yashwant K. Verma of Stevens Institute of Technology reported on his group's technique for creating macroscopically ordered aggregates of strongly-coupled colloid QDs (quantum dots) suspended in a matrix of nematic liquid-crystal molecules at room temperature.

The range of topics presented during the poster session was expansive. Students presented on everything from non-affine deformations in flexible polymer gels to quantum phases in the quantum hall regime.

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Special Guest Speaker

Philip W. Anderson, PhD, Nobel Laureate

Princeton University
e-mail | website | publications

Philip Anderson received a PhD from Harvard in 1949. After completing his doctorate, he moved on to Bell Laboratories where he stayed until 1984. Anderson was a Visiting Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cambridge from 1967–1975 and has been the Joseph Henry Professor of Physics at Princeton University since 1975. His research focuses on theoretical physics, especially quantum theory of condensed matter, spectral line broadening, magnetism, superconductivity, broken symmetry, superfluidity in 3He and neutron stars, transport theory and localization, random statistical systems, and prebiotic evolution. He has received numerous honors including election to the National Academy of Science in 1967 (Council 1976–79); the Dannie Heinemann Prize (Göttingen) in 1975; the Nobel Prize (with J.H. van Vleck and N.F. Mott) in 1977; the Guthrie Medal (Institute of Physics) in 1978; Royal Society (London) foreign member in 1980; the National Medal of Science in 1983; Foreign Associate Accademia Lincei, Rome; D.Sc. (hon) University of Illinois; Foreign Fellow of the Japan Academy of Sciences, 1989; Foreign Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Sciences, 1990; American Philosophical Society, 1991; D.Sc. (hon) Rutgers University, 1991; External Professor, Santa Fe Institute; Foreign Member Of Russian Academy of Science, 1994; Lifetime Fellow of the Washington Academy of Sciences. 1995; Honorary Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences, 1997; and the John Bardeen Prize, 1997.


Keynote Speakers

Paul McEuen, PhD

Cornell University
e-mail | website | publications

Paul McEuen is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics at Cornell University. He directs the Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics and the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. His research focuses on nanoscale electronic, optical, and mechanical properties of graphene, nanotubes, and related materials. He received his BS degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1985 and his PhD in Applied Physics from Yale University in 1991. He joined the faculty at UC–Berkeley in 1992 before coming to Cornell in 2001. Awards and honors include a Packard Foundation Fellowship, a National Young Investigator Fellowship, and the Agilent Europhysics Prize. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He is also a novelist, and his debut scientific thriller SPIRAL was published by Random House's Dial Press in March 2011.

Thomas A. Witten, PhD

The University of Chicago
e-mail | website | publications

Thomas Witten received a PhD in physics in 1971 from the University of California, San Diego. After postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton University and at Saclay, France, he joined the physics faculty at University of Michigan. He left Michigan in 1982 to join the Corporate Research lab of the Exxon Corporation. In 1989 he joined the faculty of the Department of Physics and the James Franck Institute of the University of Chicago. He is the winner of the Polymer Physics Prize of the American Physical Society (2002) and was named the Lorentz Professor in Leiden University in 2010. Witten studies statistically structured forms of matter, such as diblock copolymer domain patterns, colloidal aggregates, and crumpled membranes. Witten is the co-discoverer of diffusion-limited aggregation (1981) and a co-inventor of the statistical theory of the polymer brush (1988). He is a co-discoverer of the stretching ridge in confined elastic sheets (1995).


Speakers

Darya Aleinikava

College of Staten Island, CUNY
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Bryan Chen

University of Pennsylvania
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Senia Coh

Rutgers University
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Arijeet Pal

Princeton University
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Stefano Sacanna

New York University
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Yashwant K. Verma

Stevens Institute of Technology
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Organizers

Darya Aleinikava

College of Staten Island, CUNY
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Yang Bo

Princeton University
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Rostislav Boltyanskiy

Yale University
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J. Mauricio Campuzano

Stevens Institute of Technology
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Prasenjit Dutt

Yale University
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Manas Kulkarni

SUNY, Stony Brook; Brookhaven National Laboratory
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Jian Li

City College of New York, CUNY
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Matthew Lohr

University of Pennsylvania
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Adina Luican

Rutgers University
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Stefan Natu

Cornell University
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Trevor Rhone

Columbia University
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David Ruffner

New York University
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Anil Shrirao

New Jersey Institute of Technology
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Samarth Trivedi

New Jersey Institute of Technology
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Tahir Yusufaly

Rutgers University
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Lukas Zhao

City College of New York, CUNY
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