Research Highlights and News

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Low Temperature Detector Lab near completion

Two large rooms on the 6th floor of the Meng Min Wei Building have been renovated and set up as the new Low Temperature Detector Lab. The construction is now nearly completed. The lab will be used by Prof. Wei Cui’s group to develop superconducting transition-edge sensor (TES) arrays for high throughput, high resolution X-ray imaging spectroscopy in astrophysics. A TES operates as an ultra-sensitive thermometer. It measures the deposited energy of an incident X-ray photon by sensing a tiny rise in the temperature of the absorber (to which it is attached). The absorber temperature recovers, after heat leaks out (to a thermal bath), and the detector is ready for another photon. The accuracy to which a TES measures photon energy is fundamentally limited by thermodynamic fluctuations in the exchange of thermal energy between the absorber and the thermal bath. To achieve good energy resolution, it is necessary to operate the device at cryogenic temperatures (typically < 100 mK).


Free-floating planets not as common as thought?

More than 3500 extrasolar planets have now been detected; the study of these extrasolar planets and our own solar system is one of the most exciting areas in astrophysics. Virtually all of these planets are found around other stars. For example, our Earth orbits around the Sun. However, theory predicts some planets are either formed or ejected from proto-planetary disks because of dynamical interactions during their formation. These planets are called free-floating or rogue planets (see the cover illustration).