Current Physics Department Research Projects

Musical Acoustics
Primary Investigator: Thomas M. Huber
The goal of this faculty-student research project is a more fundamental understanding of tone production in organ pipes. One instrument that we study is the reed pipe used in pipe organs. Using a recently purchased laser vibrometer, we can measure the velocity at different points on the reed.  This is the first experiment that has measured the actual shape of the vibrating reed.  The observation of complex vibrational modes, including  include torsional and 2nd and 3rd order modes as shown, was completely unexpected.

Zinc Bromine Flow Battery
Primary Investigator: Chuck Niederriter
The goal of this project is the development of a demonstration scale zinc bromine flow battery. A flow battery is a rechargeable fuel cell in which electrolyte containing one or more dissolved electroactive species flows through an electrochemical cell that reversibly converts chemical energy directly to electricity. Additional electrolyte is stored externally, generally in tanks, and is usually pumped through the cell (or cells) of the reactor. Flow batteries can be rapidly "recharged" by replacing the electrolyte liquid (in a similar way to refilling fuel tanks for internal combustion engines) while simultaneously recovering the spent material for re-energization.

Desiccant Dehumidifier
Primary Investigator: Chuck Niederriter
The development of a demonstration desiccant dehumidifier is the goal of this project. The dehumidifier under construction is of the desiccant wheel type designed to dry air by passing a large volume of air (process air) through a slowly rotating Silica gel rotor. Silica gel is a hygroscopic material that absorbs moisture direct from the air. As the air passes through the rotor, the humidity of the air is reduced, while the moisture content of the rotor is increased. A smaller volume of air (reactivation air) is heated ideally by a solar panel or other renewable source of energy passes through a portion of the rotor in the opposite direction. As this heated air passes through the rotor it will “reactivate” it by removing the moisture content from the silica gel material. The reactivation air will leave the humidifier as warm, moist air and must be vented to outside of the building. Continuous circulation of the room air through the dehumidifier unit gradually reduces the relative humidity in the room.

PV Panel Tracking System
Primary Investigator: Chuck Niederriter
The goal of this student-led project is to determine the costs and benefits of tracking on commercial size photovoltaic installations. Theoretical calculations will be compared to experimental data collected from a custom made system.

Ground Source Geothermal
Primary Investigator: Chuck Niederriter
A home scale geothermal loop (800 foot) was installed under the new mall area between Olin and Beck Halls when it was recently renovated. Thermistor arrays and moisture sensors were also installed to study the flow of heat toward and way from the loop under various conditions. A sprinkler system allows the water content of the soil to be varied, providing a means to study the effect on the efficiency of the system. The goal is to develop a fully instrumented system for use in geology, physics, and environmental studies labs.

Light Scattering, Biophysics, and Sonoluminescence
Primary Investigator: Paul Saulnier
Dr. Saulnier's research interests include optical light scattering, biophysics, and most recently sonoluminescence.  Details of the individual studies may be found by following the above link.

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Last modification: Thursday, October 05, 2006
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