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Training the next generation of physicists: outreach toward secondary schools

2-fileminimizerThis activity has comprised both visits of students to University of Calabria, Department of Physics and, moreover, visits of members of the YM section to secondary schools.

Concerning the visits to University of Calabria, students have been involved in simple demonstration of Raman spectroscopy and diffraction experiments with electrons and X-rays. In particular, students have understood how it is possible to recognize the different atomic components in an unknown material. Moreover, they have been introduced into crystallography with simple and funny demonstrations.

The visit to the Department of Physics has been organized thanks to the crucial support of local municipalities, that have kindly shared school buses to transport students to University of Calabria in Arcavacata di Rende (CS).

The visit to University of Calabria has been an occasion to give students the first contact with University and to explain them research at our Department of Physics with simple words.

We have shown them some prototypes of devices fabricated at our Department.

As regards the simple experiments carried out directly at secondary schools, we have tried to simplify as more as possible the concepts in Physics.

As an example, we have provided a direct demonstration of the Archimedes’ principle, with very simple equipment. We have tried to demonstrate that it works on both gaseous and liquid environments, by changing our experimental setup.

We have emphasized the importance of Archimedes’ principle with many examples from our daily lives. We have also stimulated the students to imagine a world where the Archimedes’ principle could not exist.

Moreover, we have built a lemon battery, with the direct participation of students. The goal of making a lemon battery is turning chemical energy into electrical energy, creating enough electricity to power a small LED light or a watch.

Students have experienced and successively realized (with the help of a short and simple explanation) that the source of electric energy in this demonstration is the combination of copper and zinc strips in the citric acid of the lemon.

We have used a multimeter to measure the voltage with one lemon and then again as we added more lemons.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that, throughout the entire duration of the activity, we have discussed with interested students about the various possibilities of carriers in Physics.

We thank the teachers of secondary schools for their kind collaboration.

Seminars on nanospectroscopy and novel applications of nanomaterials in catalysis and energy engineering

mmmmmm 403The EPS-YM section of University of Calabria has organized a cycle of seminars on nanospectroscopy and, moreover, on novel applications of nanomaterials.
The seminar on nanospectroscopy has been focused on the novel concept of “nanospectroscopy” and the speaker has been dr. Antonio Politano.
Methods and techniques to perform spectroscopy with a nanometric spatial resolution and to the investigation and discovery of new phenomena at the nanometer scale at the interface between physics, chemistry and biology have been presented.
In particular, the study of nanostructured materials necessitates analytical methods that combine spectroscopy with electron microscopy. The feasibility of nanospectroscopy at synchrotron radiation sources has been addressed, with some examples of beamlines already open to users.
The seminar on nanomaterials has addressed novel applications recently developed. We have tried to recruit as speakers both PhD stud-ents of other departments and post-doc from our department, under the coordination of Marco Alfano. Nanomaterials can be used for energy engineering as nanofillers in novel Li-ion batteries in order to reduce the problems of silicon microparticles currently used. Furthermore, nanomaterials can be used for devising novel applications in chemical engineering.
During the talk it has been clarified that many critical issues remain unresolved in current energy systems such as low charging rate, low energy and/or power density, poor cycle life, poor thermal management, and low environmental sustainability, impeding broad adoption in new engineering applications. Therefore, the development of new, green materials and technologies is essential to design energy systems with comprehensive out-standing electrochemical, thermal and mechanical properties. In particular, graphene is a suitable platform for electrochemical energy storage and conversion devices. Moreover, scalable production of such energy materials/devices is imperative to realize the transition from laboratory-scale materials to industrial applications.
The participating categories were mainly undergraduate and PhD students.
After the end of the seminar, we have organized a round table of 30 minutes on the problem of energy.
Refreshements with some snacks and beverages have been offered in each seminar.

Outreach towards secondary and primary schools

img_20170516_100930We have introduced phenomena, concepts and materials in the fields of optics and materials science to students of secondary and primary schools.
Activities have been carried out both at schools and at University of Calabria and in both cases they have been divided into (i) simple experiments and demos and (ii) simple lessons.
Some lessons have been necessary in order to give them the minimal background in order to understand the simple experiments. However, we have started with experiments since we have noticed that in this way the lessons are found more interesting and funny by the students. In other words, the students are more interested in understanding what they have just seen that the reverse. In any case, the lessons to explain the concepts behind physical phenomena have been organized with in mind the requirement to be interactive and funny.
The first experiments organized directly at schools were focused on light (light-emitting devices and light propagation). In the last meetings, we have even introduced the nanoworld with simple demos.
Some new experimental apparatuses for outreach have been shown at students and successively described in most basic details, with a particular emphasis for the potential application fields of the topic. We have used also some videos in order to stimulate the visual memory of the students.
For the case of primary schools, we have shown how colors are formed with very simple considerations to support the experiment.
A discussion with students of secondary schools about the prospect of nanotechnology and nanoscience has been also organized. During the visit at University of Calabria, we have presented with simple words the new facilities on nanospectroscopy and nanomaterials recently installed at our University and their possible connection to the technological applications. In this case, we have formulated in a much simpler way (for secondary schools) the most intriguing concepts that have been discussed in the Seminar Activity of our EPS-YM section, instead oriented toward undergraduate and PhD students.
During the visit to the University, the students have been invited to participate actively to a low-energy electron diffraction experiment unveiling the position of atoms at surfaces of topological materials. Subsequently, a short and simple discussion to understand why the last Nobel prize for Physics has been awarded to studies on topological materials.
Refreshments with some beverages and snacks have been offered after each meeting to the students and to teachers. We acknowledge both teachers and local administrations who have nicely supported us in all the phases of the project.

Seminars on membrane technology

In this activity, we have organized seminars on thermoplasmonics and its novel applications, with particular emphasis to seawater desalination and membrane technology.
The technological applications related to the excitation of localized surface plasmon modes have originated the emerging field of plasmonics. Among the various technological capabilities of plasmonics, those related to thermoplasmonics are particularly promising. Thermoplasmonics, i.e. the Joule heating associated to optically resonant plasmonic excitations in metal nanoparticles, is based on the control by means of light source of nanoscale thermal hotspots.
The most important concepts in nanotechnology and nanoscience have been clarified in a first seminar by dr. Marco Alfano, who described the impact of nanomaterials in technology in different fields. The synthesis of nanomaterials and nanoparticles has been also included in the discussion.
In a following seminar, Dr. Antonio Politano has explained the mechanisms of the first prototype of a system for membrane distillation for seawater desalination exploiting thermoplasmonic effects using nanomaterials as nanofillers in membranes. This is the result of a collaboration among physicists, chemists and chemical engineers of our University.
During this talk, it has been demonstrated how thermoplasmonics can be used as a viable and effective tool for improving the efficiency of membrane distillation to produce desalted water at high recovery factor and relatively low energy input.
The problem of the production of desalted water via seawater desalination is becoming remarkable since the number of countries suffering water scarcity problem has increased significantly in the last decades, due to the steadily demographic expansion and the amplified demand for water in industrial activities, in agriculture and for municipal purposes.
Particular attention has been dedicated to the attempt to improve the interaction with other departments. This is beneficial for our EPS-YM section, since we find a lot of interest toward thermoplasmonics from chemical engineers in our university. We find different contact points with young researchers in membrane technology.
In the seminar on thermoplasmonics, the state of the art has been presented, with attention on the various aspects: the characteristics of thermoplasmonics and the use of nanoscale thermal hotspots in various fields.
Seminars have been attended by about 30 students, coming from Physics, Materials Science and Chemical Engineering.
After the seminars, a discussion with students about the prospect of applied research on advanced materials has been done, under the coordination of prof. Chiarello, associate professor of Applied Physics.

Outreach toward secondary schools

CalabriaThis activity has been divided into two parts:
i) Simple experiments carried out at secondary schools by members of the EPS-YM section, after a brief introduction;
ii) Visits of students at Department of Physics, Laboratory of Surface Physics.
We were motivated by the possibility to inspire the next-generation of physicists by elucidating about possibilities of carriers in Physics and Materials Science. In particular, we have stimulated students to have a positive approach toward Physics.
The collaboration of professors has highly facilitated our activity.
Here, we list some of the experiments with economic materials carried out directly at secondary schools:
1) We have demonstrated how sunlight can be intensified through a magnifying glass, concentrating energy to melt an ice cube.
2) We have demonstrated how string instruments work by building our very own miniature guitar from a matchbox.
3) We have used static electricity to separate a mixture of salt and pepper
4) We have lifted an ice cube from a glass of water using a string.
5) We have carried out experiments on convective motions in hot air.
By using a Wood’s lamp and a laser, we have also explained the properties of electromagnetic radiation.
In order to facilitate the comprehension of the simple experiments, we have explained the most important physical concepts behind the experimental observations with the help of nice and simple presentations in Power Point.
Moreover, we have tried to stimulate the attitude toward experiments by giving them the opportunity to build the various parts required for the experimental apparatus.
The visit to the Department of Physics has been organized thanks to the crucial support of local municipalities, that have kindly shared school buses to transport students to University of Calabria in Arcavacata di Rende (CS).
The visit to University of Calabria has been an occasion to give students the first contact with University and to explain them research at our Department of Physics with simple words.
We have shown them some prototypes of devices developed at our Department, highlighting the importance of applied research and, in particular, the connection between academic and production worlds. Furthermore, we have also organized simple experiments about pressure and its effects, which have been carried out by using the vacuum instrumentation of the Laboratory of Surface Physics at University of Calabria.
Finally, we have discussed with the students about the various possibilities of carriers in Physics.

Interdisciplinary seminars on technological applications of nanomaterials

seminThe EPS YM Section of University of Calabria has organized a cycle of seminars aimed at highlighting the contribution of nanotechnology and two-dimensional materials in the novel field of nanomedicine.
We have tried to put in evidence the interdisciplinary nature of nanomedicine and the key role of physics and materials science.
In a first seminar, Dr. Marco Alfano has discussed bioengineering and tissue engineering, by reporting the most striking innovations in the field, with a particular attention to the printing of artificial organs and their surgical implantation. The most astonishing issue addressed in the seminar was the motivation behind the puzzling evidence that an artificial nose or ear grows in time in young patients. Moreover, a video showing the printing of an artificial bone has been projected.
The role of materials science and engineering has been clarified.
We have invited prof. Luigi Pasqua of the Chemical Engineering Department for a second seminar on the role of chemistry in nanomedicine and, moreover, the impact of nanotechnology in pharmaceutics.
In the second seminar, prof. Pasqua has illustrated his proper research activity in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Pharmacy of our University. Prof. Pasqua’s team has developed multifunctional hybrid mesoporous silica-based materials, potentially useful for drug targeting or as sensors. The creation and structuring of the matter as molecular systems, at the nanometer scale, represents the possibility to interact with biological systems and to produce devices potentially useful in cancer therapy. Some success stories have been reported.
Such an interdisciplinary research has led to a highly innovative spin-off, funded by Calabria Region. A careful evaluation of prospects, opportunities and challenges has been provided. In particular, the global market of nanopharmaceutics has been carefully evaluated in all its aspects, in order to give the participants an overview of the relationship between the business world and nanotechnology.
In a third seminar, dr. Antonio Politano from Department of Physics of University of Calabria has reported the challenges of nanomedicine with two-dimensional materials. In particular, the key issues in artificial retina have been discussed, with a particular attention for the role of flexible nanoelectronics. Biocompatibility of two-dimensional materials has been also treated, with some case-study examples.
Refreshments with some beverages and snacks have been offered to the participants.

Outreach toward secondary school

Exif_JPEG_420The YM Section of University of Calabria has carried out in this semester an outreach activity toward secondary schools. The activity was divided into two parts:
1) Simple experiments carried out by members of the EPS-YM Section in secondary schools;
2) A guided visit of students of secondary schools in laboratories of the Department of Physics of University of Calabria.
The experiments in secondary schools had the aim to help the students to learn the concepts ruling light, electromagnetic fields and colours.
After the simple lessons, where we reminded physics behind light and colours, we organized some experiments by using a Wood’s lamp, which have been directly performed by students, with the supervision of the members of the EPS-YM Section and teachers. Students experienced how objects change their colours under the action of Wood’s lamp, or how bacteria that are invisible under visible light become noticeable under ultraviolet light. Another experiment with the Wood’s lamp had the objective to inspect paper currency and documents in order to put in evidence the existence of security strips or features, which are invisible to visible light.
We have also organized laboratory experiences related to magnetism. In particular, we observed what happens when a magnet went through a copper pipe or aluminium pipe. The students understood why magnet slows down. This phenomenon has been explained by the Faraday-Newman-Lenz’s law in a dedicated lesson.
The outreach activity was complemented with a visit of the students to the laboratories of Department of Physics of University of Calabria. In particular, the students observed the diffraction pattern obtained when low-energy electrons (~100 eV) are reflected by metallic single crystals. Moreover, they assisted to a vibrational experiment on graphene. Members of the 2D Materials of the Department of Physics group discussed with the students about the significance of nanotechnology and its potential impact on daily life. Moreover, the key concepts of two-dimensional materials have been introduced with simple terms to the students.
At the end of the visit to the University of Calabria, a snack and some beverages were offered to students and teachers.
We thank the support of local schools and teachers for their kind collaboration. We also thank the students for their enthusiastic attendance to this activity.

Outreach toward school

2015_Cos_School_04We have selected for this activity enthusiastic students of secondary schools. We have divided this activity into two parts. Firstly, we have done simple experiments in physics to promote “nice learning” and also the informal divulgation of physics. In particular, we have build an electrical motor with students. An electric motor of DC type is a device useful in everyday life to control the direction of motor rotation. We tried to build such a type of device. Used materials were very simple. As an example, we have used a copper wire as a coil. Moreover, we have done experiments to let the students to explore the electromagnetic spectrum, also by means of UV light (with a Wood lamp) to let the students to appreciate and understand what it is hidden inside electronic cards, official documents, such as passports and money.
Secondly, we have organized guided tours to the laboratories of condensed matter physics of University of Calabria. Senior students described their experiences as Physics students at University of Calabria while providing an overview of the academic programs and facilities.
We have shown visiting students the laboratories of Surface Science, Vibrational Spectroscopy and Electronic Spectroscopy of the Department of Physics. We have also guided students to see the nanoindenter facility in the DIMEG Department and the Raman spectrometer at DIATIC. We have asked the collaboration of young researchers of visited labs to explain the students the most important concepts of their research work, in order to provide the students an idea about daily work as researchers. Simple experiments have been carried out in the presence of students (e.g. diffraction pattern and Raman spectrum). Students had the possibility to tune the energy in diffraction experiments to change the pattern.
The students did many questions and this could be taken as a valuable indicator of the degree of success of the whole outreach activity.
To gain awareness about EPS and SIF, we have invited students to join physical societies.
Finally, we mention that a snack was offered to participants (student+teachers) in each visit. We would like to acknowledge teachers for their kind collaboration.

Cycle of seminars on plasmon research and plasmonic devices

2015_Cala_Semin_01The Calabria YM Section realized a cycle of seminars addressed to undergraduate students:

  • Two-dimensional materials from graphene to “beyond graphene” and their plasmonic modes (Prof. Anna Cupolillo with an introduction by prof. Gennaro Chiarello);
  • When plasmonics meet Terahertz technology (Dr. Antonio Politano).

The emergence of two-dimensional materials has been discussed. In particular, prof. Cupolillo introduced the groundbreaking impact of graphene on condensed-matter physics and the pitfalls of graphene-based devices. The necessity of going beyond graphene has been clarified. The attention was focused on phosphorene, also in consideration of the recent success of experiments carried out on our department on this material. After a detailed introduction on the two-dimensional atlas of advanced materials, plasmons have been introduced with their peculiarities in these materials.

In the seminar on Terahertz technology, the state of the art has been presented, with attention on the various aspects: the characteristics of the Terahertz radiation, the use of plasma waves to detect Terahertz radiation and the application in technology. It has been clarified that THz radiation has no endangering effects on human beings and enables higher contrast for “soft matter” than x-rays. The excitations of plasmons inside the active channel of nano-transistors devised for Terahertz detection has been introduced. The plasma-wave detection mechanism is just the most promising mechanism for introducing Terahertz technology in daily life.
Plasma-wave-based THz detectors open new possibilities of construction of real-time THz imaging systems. Most plastics, textiles and paper are nearly transparent for THz radiation. Therefore, further application fields are industrial quality inspection control, customs inspection and security screening of persons. Imaging experiments taken on 10 ms have been presented, to demonstrate the feasibility to use Terahertz photodetectors as body scanner, instead of the X-rays, which are ionizing radiation, which can be harmful for human health.
In general, particular attention has been dedicated to the attempt to improve the interaction with other departments. This is beneficial for our EPS-YM section, since we find a lot of interest toward two-dimensional materials from mechanical engineers in our university. We find different contact points with young researchers in nanomechanics.
Seminars have been attended by about 35 students, coming from Physics, Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering.
After the seminars, a discussion with students about the prospect of applied research on advanced materials has been done, under the coordination of prof. Chiarello, associate professor of Applied Physics.