We started the day with a delicious breakfast at the Coffee Club. Next, we took the bus to the St. Lucia campus of the University of Queensland (UQ). There we started the programme of today with an introductory talk by the head of the school of physics, Prof. Matthew Davis. He gave us a brief introduction about the UQ. The university was founded in 1910 and was originally based in the city centre of Brisbane at the place where the Queensland University of Technology currently located. In 1926 the UQ moved to the St. Lucia campus along the Brisbane River, which is its current location.
The physics department is one of the schools that was established during the foundation of the university in 1910. Nowadays there are about 20 academic staff members, 35 postdocs and 50 PhD students associated to the school of physics. Research is conducted in the following areas: Astrophysics, Biophotonics and Laser Science, Condesed Matter Physics and Quantum Science. Quantum sciences is the biggest area of research at the physics department, with almost two thirds of the staff being concerned with research in Quantum Science. The school is also participating in ARC centres of Excellence in Quantum science, ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Communication and Computing Technology and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Future Low-Energy Electronics (FLEET). The research in the FLEET centre is in close collaboration with the University of New South Wales and RMIT in Melbourne, which we visited earlier this trip. The ARC centres of Excellence guarantee the research at UQ with funding once every 10 years, thus providing a steady income during these 10 years.
Every year about 250 students start their bachelor programme at UQ. Approximately 70 students will finish their Bachelor in physics in the third year. 25 students continue their study in a postgraduate honours programme, which is a one year programme of doing subjects and research, comparable to a shortened version of the master programmes in the Netherlands.
After the introductory talk we started with the lab tours. First, we visited a quantum optics lab. The focus in this lab was on single photon sources and single photon detection.
In the next lab they showed us some setups where they were making and studying qubits.
After a small walk to the basement of the library we entered the expansion tube lab of the Centre for Hypersonics. In this lab they had 2 large expansion tubes where they conducted experiments with supersonic flows. They created shockwaves in the tubes with speeds of 10 km/s and temperatures of 10,000 K. These pulsed shockwaves last for only 100 microseconds. The researchers in this lab conduct experiments on three different topics. The first topic is the simulation of conditions which occur when spaceships enter the earth’s atmosphere by testing materials used in spaceships under these harsh conditions. The second topic is spectroscopy, and the third topic is rocket launches, in which they collaborate with, i.e. NASA.
After the expansion lab we split up and went to a lab where they used nanodiamonds as temperature sensors and as a marker in microfluidic evaporation experiments. The nanodiamonds allow them to measure gradients inside cells.
The other half of the group went to see a potential Ig Nobel Prize winning research. The goal of this research is to make AMOLED’s as efficient as OLED’s.
After these lab tours it was time to have a lunch barbecue with various physicists in the lovely Brisbane winter sun. During this lunch we also had the possibility to take a look at the pitch-drop experiment, the longest running experiment in the world.
When lunch time was over we went to see more labs which in some way had to do with quantum mechanics. In the first lab they conducted research on optical tweezers, allowing them to change the angular momentum of a fluid by using lasers. In another lab they showed us a very accurate rotation sensor which is made with a Bose-Einstein Condensate. These Bose-Einstein Condensate were cooled down to 100 nK with lasercooling. In these labs they showed us more applications of the Bose-Einstein Condensates.
After the lab tours some students of the physics club showed us around campus. We saw nice and old buildings on the campus and even some wildlife with turtles and eels swimming in the lakes.
After the campus tour the physics club did some funny demonstrations of physical phenomena similar to Science on Tour in Twente.
We concluded the day with a pizza in the restaurant at the campus and with some drinks at the bar at the campus.
~ Mark and Sander