Photography on the smallest scale featured in Alumni Magazine

October 12, 2020

Photography on the smallest scale featured in Alumni Magazine

Repicky photography

The Ohio State Alumni Magazine Fall issue recently featured photography by Jacob Repicky and Seth Shields.

Jacob Repicky, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics, studies the behavior of matter on the smallest scales. What you see here is a chromium surface that is the width of one one-hundredth of a strand of human hair. This research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is built around an instrument called a scanning tunneling microscope that allows him to view images such as this one. “We were particularly interested in chromium surfaces because they are known to be magnetic, and we were hoping to visualize this magnetism using this microscope,” he says. “Preparation of the chromium surface for the microscope requires heating the metal to 1,100 degrees Celsius, which is near the evaporation point. As the metal is heated up and cooled down, these chromium wires had spontaneously assembled, much to our surprise.”

Shields Photography

Graduate student Seth Shields’ research toward removing carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere and converting it into fuel occurs on a film of copper dioxide so thin it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Ideally, the film would be a model for a catalyst that can convert carbon dioxide back into hydrocarbon fuels. What we see here is an imperfect attempt. Shields, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Physics, takes it in stride. “We produce these photos because we need to know how it’s growing and whether the films are extremely atomically flat so I can perform my main measurement technique of scanning tunneling microscopy on them,” he says. “Humanity is pumping CO2 into the air like nobody’s business. Even though this growth wasn’t flat enough to be successful, it can be a small piece that can help guide others who are working to solve this problem.”

— Jo McCulty

Read more and check out the photos here: