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Tiny Matter

Photography by Brian David Braun By Shane Donglasan April 30, 2012

New College of Florida opened its Optical Spectroscopy and Nanomaterials Lab in January with a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, making it the first and only such lab at an undergraduate liberal arts college in the nation. Nanoscience is the study of matter no larger than a billionth of a meter. If a strand of hair is decreased 100,000 times, it becomes the size of one nanometer in diameter. Today’s most advanced and compact electronics, with applications in the computer or robotic industry, diagnostic medicine, optical communications and energy, are now using this relatively new science. New College professor of physics Dr. Mariana Sendova, the lead investigator in the lab, is involving her students in research that few liberal arts undergraduates can participate in. For example, they’ve been analyzing glazes on sculptures at the Ringling Museum of Art in research that will impact the historical and conservational aspects of art. “[The lab] is one of the most important developments New College has to be proud of,” she says.

New College of Florida opened its Optical Spectroscopy and Nanomaterials Lab in January with a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory

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The $1.7 million lab in the Heiser Natural Sciences building collaborates with research institutes in Sweden, Germany, France, South Africa and Australia.

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Every material has a fingerprint, and New College students used this micro-Raman sample positioning and heating equipment, which can recognize tiny specks of material, to identify the firing temperature of pigments in 4,500-year-old terra-cotta sculptures at the Ringling Museum.

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The Nd:YAG laser on this optical vibration free table can modify particle sizes and help advance optical communications.

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Prof. Mariana Sendova, here with research associate Dr. Brian Hosterman, welcomes local companies to work with New College students and the lab for their own research projects.

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