A big attraction of physics research is the quest for deeper understanding of how the world and universe work. Prof. Vinay Ambegaokar’s ready question for graduate students is: “What physical problem are you trying to elucidate?” Our group’s answer of the moment: what happens to angular momentum inside magnets.
Specifically, we are working on mechanical detection of magnetic resonance. You can’t make a magnetic dipole moment without angular momentum. This indeed is the reason why magnetic resonance and MRI are possible.
Long before magnetic resonance was discovered, one of the first experiments addressing angular momentum conservation in a magnet was performed on iron by Einstein and de Haas in 1915 (thought to be Einstein’s only experiment). How could this possibly still be a good question to work on today? Thanks to the new technologies we can bring to bear, it is. Larry Friedman, a senior graduate student of Bob Richardson told me in 1982, “You don’t have to look under many rocks to find something new”. One of the reasons this remains true is the steady development of new tools to help see new things under the same old rocks.
Why the UofA?
The University of Alberta is a terrific place to work on this topic of ‘spin mechanics’ thanks to our state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities like the nanoFAB, and collaborators on campus at NRC-NANO.
Einstein-de Haas effects represent fundamental physics that should be presented when magnetism is discussed in undergraduate textbooks. One of our related activities is to work towards updating the curricular coverage through experimental physics courses. The Science Hardware Makerspace (the Shack) allows students to have access to technologies for use in their own projects and courses more quickly than what’s typical at other institutions. SO much fun.
In a nutshell
Our group strives to elucidate the physics of nanomagnetic and nanomechanical systems, through the development and application of sensitive measurements of individual nanostructures (ultrafast optical microscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy, nanomechanical magnetometry). Advanced nanofabrication methods are used to create the nanosystems.