18-Jan-08 5:00 PM  CST

FAMU Physicists Discover Nanoscale Turbulence

TALLAHASSEEFlorida A&M University’s (FAMU’s) distinguished professor of science and engineering, Dr. Joseph A. Johnson, III, along with Dr. Stephen Roberson (FAMU doctorate, Fall 2006), and Dr. Charlemagne Akpovo of FAMU have found first evidence of turbulent behavior in ionized gases which have a lifetime of less than 100 nanoseconds. (A nanosecond is one thousandth of one millionth of one second.) Laser induced plasmas in Nitrogen, Argon, Xenon, Neon and Krypton were studied using measuring speeds at rates in excess of 10 x109 per second. Turbulent flow fluctuations which influence mixing on such short time scales will cause dramatic changes in applications such as ion implantation in semiconductors. Such fluctuations will drastically change the reaction dynamics in the synthesis of new nano-materials. Furthermore, computations and modeling for the molecular dynamics in nanotechnology must now include new physics driven by turbulence in order to correctly predict the manufacturing processes. Their paper on this research has been accepted for publication in an upcoming 2008 issue of the Journal of Applied Physics published by the American Institute of Physics.

            The practical relevance of this discovery is unparalleled, according to lead scientist, Dr. Johnson, “This is new physics for new technologies. As detailed in a December 2007 Scientific American Reports, Special Edition on Nanotechnology, the control of molecules is changing the world. Nanotechnology broadly applies to control of materials and components only a few billionths of a meter in size. It has begun with skin lotions and will include advances in biotechnology and electronics and a merging of the two. Consider, for example building blocks called bi-amino acids which chemists string together into protein-like structures; applications include medicines, enzymes for catalyzing reactions, sensors, nanoscale valves and computer storage devices.”

            Dr. Johnson elaborated on the practicality of this research as it relates to FAMU’s success rate in graduating seven (7) African American doctorates between 2006 and 2007. “Researchers are using natural molecular machines to process information. Nanoscience advances are also pushing traditional electronics in new directions as well; possible applications encompass sensors, solar cells, electronic paper and bendable touch screens. Further, plasmons, resulting from squeezing optical signals through miniscule wires, could provide plasmonic circuits which can improve the resolution of microscopes, the efficiency of light emitting diodes, and the sensitivity of detectors. Indeed, such materials could alter the electromagnetic field around an object to such an extent that it would become invisible. The nanoregime offers enormous promise indeed. The FAMU discovery will influence the search for new fundamental physics to explain these effects and the evolution of flow modeling and simulations for nanotechnology manufacturing processes.”

            The measurements and analyses were completed at the FAMUCenter for Plasma Science and Technology (CePaST) in Tallahassee’s InnovationPark and are the consequence of a three year research project funded at FAMU in part by the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. Prof. Johnson is the Director of CePaST and Distinguished Professor of Science and Engineering at FAMU. Both Drs. Roberson and Akpovo are former Ph.D. Students with Prof. Johnson. Dr. Roberson is now a National Research Council Fellow at the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, MD. Dr. Akpovo is now a Research Staff Physicist at CePaST in the FAMU Laser Remote Sensing Laboratory.

            According to Dr. Johnson, whose research focuses on turbulence and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, “This research project on nanoscale turbulence is a part of a comprehensive program of studies on the physics of turbulence in the FAMU Laboratory for Modern Fluid Physics at CePaST. We see new exciting opportunities (here at FAMU) in what is now called mesoscale physics.”Dr. Roberson said in a phone interview: “These results break the commonly accepted view of turbulence in specific time frames—different from what most books are saying. The evidence is conclusive and dispels previous assumptions.” Dr. Akpovo adds, “New insights on turbulence can change approaches to issues in cosmology as well as a broad range of technologies ranging from mixing in combustion systems to remote sensing for hazard avoidance. Stay tuned!”

            CePaST activities are aimed at producing new technology from new science through theoretical, experimental, and computational plasma physics and photonics so as to increase national security, support the development of alternative sources of energy and to help provide new advanced materials all in a manner which enlarges the nation’s scientific workforce. This is achieved through a broad spectrum of research activities in physics and chemistry including research on remote sensing; fusion; advanced materials; high temperature plasma physics; laboratory astrophysics; advanced algorithms; and fundamental atomic and molecular science in support of plasma and laser physics. CePaST involves roughly 40 participants including faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students along with other scientific and support staff. For more information, please contact: Professor Joseph Johnson at 850.561.2471 or joseph.johnson@famu.edu .

For additional information on this release, please contact:
Joseph Johnson
(850) 561-2471
Source: FAMU Center for Plasma Science and Technology Website:
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