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Physics Projects


Thermal properties of a solid material at room temperature

Dr. Krishna Prasai

The novel materials being developed for today’s material science applications require precise, accurate and efficient measurements of thermal properties such as thermal conductivity, specific heat capacity and thermal expansion coefficient. Thermal conductivity defines a material’s ability to transfer heat, specific heat describes its capacity to store energy, and thermal expansion coefficient explains how the size of an object changes with a change in temperature. These critical analytical tools are vital to successful material design and engineering of nearly every area of industrial practice, including aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, electronics, energy and environmental engineering, and many others. Measurement of thermal properties also provides important information about the purity, composition, structure and thermal tolerance of the material. Since thermal properties of a material change with temperature and impurity present in the material, it is possible to tune these properties by blending more than one material. Therefore, material synthesis and characterization at different temperature range of interest have become a hot and extensive topic of cutting edge research for last several decades. In this project, we will investigate thermal properties of a good conductor and a poor conductor. Our good conducting sample will be made of a commercial product of Aluminum or Copper and our poor conducting sample will be made of a commercial product of rubber. A set of comprehensive apparatus of heat experiments will be used for all measurements. This apparatus is well equipped with a control unit with PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) control system and multiple display units for different parameters such as temperature, pressure, voltage, and current with high-precision timing units. In this short-term summer project, students will learn to calibrate and use a modern device for room temperature characterization of a solid material. This provides a solid foundation for their long-term research involvement in one of the most exciting and widespread fields of material science. Similar measurement techniques have been used to investigate a variety of materials at a wide range of temperatures, including samples of thin film, liquids, and gases. This project will be the first step in helping us start a new material science research lab to involve undergraduate students at CSUB.