2010 October

A milestone for molecular beams

Wednesday, 20th October 2010Publication highlights

Photograph of the 40-piece molecular synchrotron. The Meijer team uses pulsed electric fields to simultaneously confine up to 19 packets of molecules in the ring. The molecules can travel in the ring for over one mile.

Scientists at the Fritz Haber Institute (FHI) have managed to control a beam of neutral molecules for over one mile. The method takes advantage of the interaction of polar molecules with inhomogeneous electric fields, in much the same way that magnetic and electric fields are used to manipulate charged particles. Instead of building a mile-long track, Zieger and co-workers confined a tight packet of molecules (3 mm wide) in a table-top arrangement of 40 straight electrostatic hexapoles mounted in a circle with a half a meter diameter. Not only the long flight distance, but also the fact that several separate packets of molecules could be stored simultaneously in the ring testifies to the intrinsic stability of the ring. Their findings, which epitomize the level of control that can now be achieved over molecular beams, have been published in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters and have been further highlighted as an Editor’s Suggestion. more …

(Published: 22. Oct, 2010 | Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 173001)

Further Information: Peter Zieger, Bas van de Meerakker, and Gerard Meijer

New Humboldt Recipient breaks the traditional scholar mold

Thursday, 7th October 2010Miscellaneous

C. Franklin Goldsmith “hiking” on Berlin’s Pfaueninsel with his daughter Sabine.

As of 01 Sept 2010, the Emmy Noether Group in the Inorganic Chemistry department has enjoyed the addition of Humboldt Scholar C. Franklin Goldsmith to their high temperature catalysis group. The group, headed by Dr. Raimund Horn, focuses on understanding all the elementary reactions in the high-temperature, high-pressure conversion of alkanes to higher-value products, such as partial oxidation and oxidative coupling. Goldsmith will investigate catalytic combustion: the complete oxidation of propane or methane on a metal (e.g., palladium) surface. The goal, as Goldsmith explains, “is to map the time and spatial profile of the various transient species, for instance, at what point in the experiment and at what concentrations do they occur, to determine a detailed model under realistic (industrial catalysis) conditions.”

Goldsmith recently completed his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Goldsmith’s thesis work, having a large theoretical bend, and his background in mathematics makes him an important addition to the mostly experimental group of Dr. Horn. At the same time, the group’s expertise on various experimental techniques was what attracted Goldsmith to the FHI. Goldsmith plans on performing experiments under high temperature and high pressure conditions, as well as building a computational model able to predict all the relevant gas phase products and surface variations.

When reading Goldsmiths’ CV, one cannot help but notice the many distinctions he has accumulated in such a young career. Goldsmith’s path, though, is not so straight-forward as it may appear on paper. He is an avid hiker, spending ample time traveling in places from Alaska to Guatemala, and even authoring a guidebook for hiking in western North Carolina. He has tried his hand at various jobs across a wide spectrum – from wood chopping to pastry chef – before earning a B.A. in philosophy. I asked Goldsmith how this scope of experiences has affected him, and he responded “well, it all made sense along the way, and now I’m certain about what I want to be doing.”

Goldsmith is excited to return to Germany, where he spent his time as a Fulbright Scholar, and particularly to live in Berlin, where he has been a frequent visitor since the late 90’s. He describes Berlin as “dynamic” and is happy to be witnessing its transformation up close. “Berlin is big enough to have everything but it still feels small with its distinct neighborhoods.” The FHI is equally excited to experience the changes that Goldsmith will undoubtedly bring to the Inorganic Chemistry department.