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Studying nanoporous materials
No feat too small

{Dr. Todd Andrews}
Dr. Todd Andrews

Memorial University will soon be home to a new laboratory equipped to study materials with feature sizes about 100,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.

Funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation will allow Dr. Todd Andrews, Physics and Physical Oceanography, to build a laboratory dedicated to the study of nanoporous materials and their properties.

Equipped with a new laser and multipass tandem interferometer, this laboratory lays the groundwork for the establishment of a world-class Brillouin light scattering research program in Memorial's Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography.

In the interests of pure research, Dr. Andrews is studying the basic properties and behaviour of nanoporous materials - materials with typical pore and feature sizes of a few billionths of a meter - but points out that his findings will benefit other scientists worldwide in a variety of applications.

"Researchers working in emerging fields such as photonics, biomaterials and nanoelectronics will require detailed knowledge of the properties of nanoporous materials so that they may be exploited for new applications.

"Nanoporous silicon is currently being explored for use as a photonic material in the fabrication of silicon-based devices such as lasers and photodetectors. A second particularly fascinating potential application of nanoporous silicon is its use as a human bone-building material," said Dr. Andrews.

Dr. Andrews' laboratory will harness the power of light to uncover the properties of nanoporous materials. The laboratory's new multipass tandem interferometer works in conjunction with a laser, which when aimed at a sample, produces scattered light with a range of frequencies unique to that material. The interferometer then allows Dr. Andrews to analyze the information contained in the scattered light, and to assess the mechanical properties of the material and its behaviour under varying conditions.

His current research began in 1992, when Dr. Andrews began using laser spectroscopic techniques, including Brillouin spectroscopy, to determine the elastic, structural, and optical properties of nanoporous silicon. In fact, Dr. Andrews' PhD work resulted in the first published Brillouin scattering study of porous silicon.

As a new faculty member, Dr. Andrews is happy with the contribution that this new laboratory will make to the university as well as the field of physics overall.

"I have always been intrigued by light, ever since my first high school physics course, so this field is a natural choice for me," said Dr. Andrews. "Using laser light to probe the properties of extremely interesting and novel materials that no one has ever studied before, I'm right where I belong."

{Memorial University of Newfoundland}