NSF grant brings state-of-the-art materials research equipment to the UAB Department of Physics

The grant will enhance research capabilities at UAB by facilitating acquisition of a Physical Properties Measurement System.
Written by: Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Savannah Koplon

Wenli Bi Ph.D streamWenli Bi, Ph.DThe National Science Foundation has awarded a Major Research Instrumentation grant of $419,614 to Wenli Bi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics.

The grant, led by Bi, is titled “MRI: Acquisition of a Quantum Design Physical Properties Measurement System for Materials Research and Education.”

The MRI grant supports the acquisition of a Physical Properties Measurement System from Quantum Design, which is a state-of-the-art, highly automated and multifunctional system capable of measuring a multitude of material properties at cryogenic temperature, high magnetic field and high pressure.

“The PPMS will greatly expand the materials research capability at UAB Physics by directly benefiting seven research groups in our department,” Bi said. “It will enable integration of all three extreme sample environments: high pressure up to 1 million atmosphere, low temperature down to 1.9 K and high magnetic field up to 9 Tesla for materials research.” 

Bi believes the grant will open new avenues for intra- and interdepartmental collaborations with the acquisition of PPMS. Additionally, she hopes it will foster education of diverse graduate and undergraduate students, and train high school students and STEM teachers through research, education and outreach activities. It will also help develop new hands-on modules for lab courses at UAB to demonstrate basic physics principles.

Learn more about physics degrees at UAB here.

The grant will develop and use exhibits on advanced characterization of materials properties and applications for outreach at McWane Science Center to promote science literacy in the general public and inspire K-12 students to pursue STEM areas.  

“The addition of this new research capability will foster new collaborations with other diverse physics and materials research groups in Central Alabama,” Bi said.  

UAB faculty Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., professor university scholar and associate dean in the Department of Physics; Mary Ellen Zvanut, Ph.D., professor and graduate program director; Sergey Mirov, Ph.D., university professor; and Renato Camata, Ph.D., associate professor and undergraduate program director; are the co-principal investigators of this project.