Renato Camata

Associate Professor
Undergraduate Program Director
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Campbell Hall 306
(205) 934-8143

Research and Teaching Interests: Clean Energy, Ionic Transport in Electroceramics, Mid-infrared Semiconductor Optoelectronics, Laser and Aerosol Synthesis of Thin Films and Nanomaterials

Office Hours: By appointment

Education:

  • B.S., University of São Paulo, Physics
  • M.S., California Institute of Technology, Applied Physics
  • Ph.D., California Institute of Technology, Applied Physics

I was drawn to physics by the elegance and symmetry we perceive at the most fundamental levels of the universe. As an undergraduate physics major, I discovered that the same beauty we apprehend in cosmology and the theory of general relativity, is close at hand in the everyday world of atoms and in how they combine to form the modern materials of solar cells and touchscreens.

It was through an undergraduate research project that I learned how use Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry to locate, inside a crystal, tiny amounts of dopant atoms responsible for the essential properties of the devices in today’s computer chips. That project, using an offshoot of Ernst Rutherford’s approach to demonstrate the existence of the atomic nucleus, sealed the “physics deal” for me: Here I was, applying methods that revealed the very structure of matter, to the study of the inner workings of microelectronic processes that had significant societal and economic impact.

My interest in the physics of materials and their applications grew during my years as a graduate student at Caltech and as a postdoc at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) in Japan, where I developed research expertise in laser-matter interactions and gas-phase synthesis of nanomaterials.

Since joining the UAB faculty in 2000, I have mentored 26 undergraduate students in experimental materials research and trained 9 PhD scientists. Eight students have received the MS degree in physics under my mentorship. My research program has been funded by NSF, NASA, DOD, and industry. I currently serve as the Director of the Physics Undergraduate Program.

Two of my favorite hobby activities are stargazing with my 6” reflector and playing classical guitar.

Research Interests

Dr. Camata’s research is focused in two areas:

Ionic transport in thin film protonic electroceramics: Uncovering the details of proton transport mechanisms in high-temperature protonic conductors may enable a new generation of solid oxide fuel cells capable of efficient operation in the intermediate temperature range (500-750°C). We study thin film proton conducting electrolytes based on yttrium-doped and gadolinium-doped barium zirconate fabricated by pulsed laser deposition. Thin films in this class have yielded some of the highest protonic conductivities ever achieved. We are particularly interested in demonstrating films with high crystallographic texture on substrates with large lattice mismatch and even on amorphous materials. Although not expected to achieve the same performance of epitaxial films, these highly textured proton conductors, if properly engineered in their microstructure and degree of texturing, may deliver excellent levels of protonic conductivity in the intermediate temperature range on a variety of thermally matched, porous, and conductive substrates amenable for fuel cell systems with wide applicability.

Mid-infrared semiconductor thin film materials: Transition metal (TM)-doped II-VI semiconductor thin films are promising materials for mid-infrared (mid-IR) laser sources. These lasers have broad applicability in the sensing and detection of a wide range of organic molecules that pose biological and environmental threats. When a II-VI semiconductor such as ZnSe is doped with TM ions such as Cr2+, the resulting broadband emission characteristics in the 2-3 µm spectral range (due to emission from the dopant) creates the potential for tunable lasing in the mid-IR. Mid-IR lasing under optical excitation has been demonstrated in these systems and a compact, electrically pumped tunable laser operable at room temperature in this spectral region is now highly sought after. Our projects in this area study the energy transfer processes between the II-VI host to the dopant atoms. Elucidation of the relative importance of these processes may enable an efficient electrically pumped tunable mid-IR laser.

Recent Courses

  • PH 221: General Physics I
  • I am passionate about this course and work hard to embody a very fundamental tenet of my teaching philosophy: I must be a motivator of student learning. I believe that everyone can be captured by the joy of understanding, and that this experience may become a significant force for personal growth.
  • PH 436: Physics of Renewable Energy Systems
  • This course builds on my research expertise and describes how the principles of electromagnetism (with some concepts from mechanics and quantum physics) can be applied to understand numerous problems in renewable energy systems that are critical for a sustainable energy future.
  • PH 432: Statistical Thermodynamics I
  • This course builds on my research expertise and describes how the principles of electromagnetism (with some concepts of mechanics and quantum physics) enable us to understand numerous problems in renewable energy systems.
  • PH 710: Advanced Classical Mechanics
  • This graduate course has a significant focus on chaotic dynamics in dissipative and conservative systems.

Select Publications

  • A. D. Martinez, D. V. Martyshkin, R. P. Camata, V. V. Fedorov, and S.B. Mirov (2015); “Crystal field engineering of transition metal doped II-VI ternary and quaternary semiconductors for mid-IR tunable laser applications,” Optical Materials Express 5, 243619 (2015).
  • Z. R. Lindsey, M.W.Rhoades, V.V. Fedorov, S.B.Mirov, R. P. Camata (2015), “Pulsed laser deposition of ZnSxSe1-x and its integration into multilayered Cr2+:ZnSe structures for mid-IR electroluminescence,” 82nd Annual SESAPS Meeting, November 18-21, 2015, Mobile, Alabama.
  • Z. R. Lindsey, M.W.Rhoades, V.V. Fedorov, S.B.Mirov, P.A. Kung, R. P. Camata (2016), “Optimization of pulsed-laser-deposited ZnSxSe1-x for integration into multi-layered Cr2+:ZnSe structures for mid-IR electroluminescence,” Tuskegee University Science & Technology Open House 2016, February 5-6, 2016, Montgomery, Alabama.
  • E. H. Remington, A. W. Skinner, R. P. Camata (2014); “Towards the Development of Intermediate-Temperature Solid Oxide Fuel Cells” Alabama EPSCoR Science & Technology Open House, February 7-8, 2014, Montgomery, AL.
  • P. V. Bapat, R. Kraft, and R. P. Camata (2012); “Gas Phase Laser Synthesis of Aggregation-Free, Size-Controlled Hydroxyapatite Nanoparticles,” Journal of Nanoparticle Research 14, 1163 (2012).

Academic Distinctions & Professional Memberships

  • UAB President's Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Materials Research Society
  • Center for Optical Sensors and Spectroscopies
  • Center for Nanomaterials and Biointegration

Student Groups

  • Society of Physics Students