A new way to measure nanostructured materials

A new way to measure nanostructured materials

young man with shoulder-length hair and short beard wearing a dark blazer, white shirt and striped tie
Grant Mayberry

Grant Mayberry is a rising senior majoring in engineering physics with a focus on materials process. He was thrilled to learn recently that a paper he wrote based on his research on nanomaterials has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Undergraduate Reports in Physics (JURP).

In this paper, Mayberry outlines an experimental and mathematical model for determining the dielectric properties of nanostructured materials and provides data for zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles. “The dielectric properties of any material are important for understanding how that substance might behave in an electrical or optical context,” explained Mayberry.

But nanostructured materials differ from everyday materials because they are literally structured at the nanoscale (the nanoparticles Mayberry and his co-researchers use are ~21.9nm spheres of ZnO). According to Mayberry, “This is an important material for use in the newest generation of solar technology, so it’s crucial that we know its electrical and optical behavior.”

The method Mayberry proposes in his JURP paper has several key advantages: The material’s dielectric properties can be determined over a wide range of electrical and optical frequencies, only a relatively small volume of powder is required and the material’s behavior in liquids can be studied.

Labwork and mentorship

a scientific workstation with a computer, monitor, many wires and other pieces of technological equipment
Mayberry’s workstation at TU, including an impedance analyzer, computer and dielectric cell used to take measurements (some impedance spectra can be seen on the screen)

The work that formed the basis of Mayberry’s publication was conducted in the Semiconductor Characterization Laboratory run by Professor of Physics Parameswar Hari.

“Dr. Hari has been an excellent advisor and my research has greatly benefited from our discussions,” Mayberry commented. “He is always available to guide my inquiries, but he also gives me the freedom to pursue a variety of facets and to work at my own pace. Thanks to Dr. Hari’s guidance, I have learned so much more in his lab than what I published in the JURP.”

For his part, Hari is equally enthusiastic about his student’s qualities as a student and researcher: “Grant is outstanding. He is highly motivated, and his success is mainly due to his strong motivation to learn and improve his knowledge. I strongly feel that he will be successful in any area he chooses. He has an excellent work ethic and it is not a surprise that he was able to publish a paper on nanomaterials.”

Continuing to learn and excel

Between his junior and senior years, Mayberry is spending the summer furthering his knowledge and skills at Georgia Tech, thanks to support from a Research for Undergraduates summer fellowship from the National Science Foundation. He is currently working in Professor Zhigang Jiang’s research group, helping to test the properties of hexagonal-Boron-Nitride (hBN) for neutron radiation shielding and detection in space, as well as studying current distributions in graphene using computer simulations.

As he looks to life after graduation from TU, Mayberry aspires to continuing on to graduate-level studies in physics. “My ultimate goal is to become a physics professor,” he remarked, “so that I can give students the same opportunities I enjoyed and share with them the mathematical elegance and philosophical nature of the field of physics that I find so exciting.”

group of eight young people standing in two rows of four people, each person holding a certificate in front of themselves
Presentation winners of the TU Research Colloquium 2022 — Mayberry (front row, second from the right) placed third presenting the research published in JURP

Expand your universe and career potential by studying physics, the most fundamental of all the sciences. We’re eager to welcome you!