Physics and Astronomy

Wright Laboratory

A generous research infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation helped the department reconfigure and renovate the Wright Laboratory of Physics research and teaching labs.

A faculty member working with a student in one of the physics labs.
Photo credit: Jennifer Manna
Wright 004: Professional Machine Shop

The machine shop is staffed by Mike Miller and provides support for faculty research in addition to general campus needs. The shop has the capability to build anything out of metal, plastic, or wood. Mike is experienced with materials including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, copper, UHMW, HDPE, ABS, PVC, vinyl, Delrin and Teflon. Capabilities include cutting spur gears to 12” diameter, fabricating steel frameworks, cutting spheres to 5” diameter and pouring aluminum castings to 20 lbs.

Wright 005: Student Shop

The Student Shop is adjacent to the Professional Shop. Students with proper training and faculty may use this shop for small metal and wood projects or repairs. The shop is stocked with all kinds of hand tools and a few basic power tools, including a grinder, drill press, band saw, electric sander and metal lathe.

Physics 314 includes a module in which students learn basic machining techniques. Shop training is also available as a Winter Term Project.

Wright 006: Holography Lab

The holography lab is used by students in the Intermediate Laboratory course as well as students conducting research.

Wright 007: Electronics Shop

This is the office of Bill Mohler, the science division's electronics specialist.

Wright 010: X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory

The X-Ray Lab holds a Rigaku powder x-ray diffractometer, purchased through a joint chemistry-physics grant from the National Science Foundation. The equipment and related crystallography software are used in inorganic chemistry, intermediate and advanced physics labs, and in mineralogy as well as in a variety of student-faculty research projects.

Wright 012: Electronic Measurement Laboratory

The Electronic Measurement Laboratory the research lab of John Scofield. The lab contains the usual assortment of cabinets, counter space, and a laboratory sink. The main feature of the lab is the 10 ft. x 10 ft. x 10 ft. RF-shielded enclosure. This room-within-a-room provides for a low-noise measurement environment.

The lab is set up to perform electrical measurements for characterizing solar cells, specifically light and dark current-voltage (I-V) characteristics and admittance measurements. Measurement systems include an Oriel solar simulator and probe station, an HP-3562A dynamic signal analyzer, an HP-3325B frequency synthesizer, Keithley 199 dmm/scanner, an HP-4140B picoammeter/voltage source, and a Tektronix storage scope.

Wright 013A: Vacuum Laboratory

The Vacuum Lab is the home of a Cooke thermal evaporator with an 18 in. glass bell jar and an MBraun Unilab argon-filled glovebox for air sensitive sample handling. There is also a Schlenk line and a Fisher vacuum oven.

This lab is used by students in the Intermediate (Phys 314) and Advanced Laboratory (Phys 414) courses as well as to support faculty and student research.

Wright 013B: Wet Chemistry Laboratory

The Wet Chemistry Lab is sandwiched between the Intermediate/Advanced Lab and the Vacuum Lab. It contains a variety of hoods and lab benches which are mainly used for sample preparation. The room contains both organic solvent and acid storage cabinets, a standard laboratory hood/sink, two exhausted laminar flow hoods, one with a wet and the other with dry bench, and a laminar flow hood without exhaust.

The lab includes a muffle oven, a tube furnace, DI water, compressed air, nitrogen gas, and standard safety features such as a shower and eye wash. The room also contains yellow lights and window tint for use with photolithography.

Wright 014: Computational Astrophysics Laboratory

The Computational Astrophysics Lab is the home of Rob Owen's research group. Students in this lab explore a wide range of topics including gravitation theory, black hole astrophysics, and gravitational-wave source modeling, often using computational methods.

Wright 015: Intermediate/Advanced Laboratory

The Intermediate/Advanced Teaching Lab is the main meeting room for the two upper-level laboratory courses. The room contains two "islands" in the middle of the room as well as laboratory benches and cabinets around its perimeter. The room is adjacent and has immediate access to the Wet Chem, Radiation, and Laser Labs.

Several experimental setups are located in this laboratory. These include an NMR experiment, a Hall effect setup, a closed-cycle helium refrigerator for performing experiments in the range 7-300K, and a setup for measuring the Johnson noise of a resistor.

Wright 015A: Laser Laboratory

The Laser Lab is a small room connected to the Intermediate/Advanced teaching lab. The lab is used both for teaching these courses and also for student research projects. It contains an optical table mounted on air shock absorbers for eliminating the effect of building vibrations.

Wright 015B: Radiation Laboratory

The Radiation Laboratory houses all of our radioactive materials. The lab is located off of the southeast corner of the Intermediate/Advanced Teaching Lab and is connected to it. The lab contains a lead-lined radioactive materials storage cabinet and a variety of lead bricks which may be rearranged for shielding a particular experiment.

The Radiation Lab contains laboratory benches and tables and electronics for several experiments. The two experiments regularly conducted here are an experiment to measure the gamma-ray spectrum of Co-60 and an investigation of the angular correlation of gamma-gamma coincidences.

Wright 016: Infrared Spectroscopy Laboratory

This laboratory is the research home of Stephen Fitzgerald. His experimental research has specialized in understanding the infrared properties of materials. In particular he has looked at the IR properties of trapped H2 in carbon 60 and in metal-organic frameworks.

Wright 017: Magnetic Characterization Laboratory

The Magnetic Characterization Laboratory is the research lab of Yumi Ijiri. The lab holds a Lakeshore 7307 vibrating sample magnetometer, purchased through a grant from the National Science Foundation . The magnetometer is capable of magnetic measurements in fields from 0 to 2 T and in temperatures from 4 to 300 K. Through a set of vector coils, measurements of magnetic anisotropy and inhomogeneities can also be made.

The room also houses a Centorr 5SA single arc furnace for the high temperature synthesis (2000-3000 0C) of intermetallic alloys under flowing Argon.

In 1993 the Oberlin College Department of Physics was awarded an NSF Research Infrastructure Grant for the renovation of the Wright Basement. The plan called for the concentration of all facility- intensive research and research training efforts on the ground floor of Wright, creating 4,300 sq. ft. of renovated research space on this one floor. The renovated space was to be devoted entirely to research and research training. The Science Division’s Electronics Shop (300 sq. ft.), which supports research throughout the entire division, was also included in the renovation. The upper two floors were renovated in 2001.

The renovated ground floor received a complete HVAC system and infrastructure to support research. Hot and cold domestic water, drains, deionized water, chilled water, compressed air, and dry nitrogen gas were run to most rooms. Several hoods were installed with ductwork run to all faculty research labs. Where not immediately required, services were stubbed off to reduce cost while maintaining future flexibility.

Computer network, phone lines, clean-, dirty-, and uninterrupted- 120 VAC, and 208 VAC-3 phase electrical service were run throughout the renovated space. All interior walls and ceilings were lined with conducting foil to reduce RF interference. Various research and research training activities were grouped by function to create an integrated research and research training facility.

The renovated facility was made accessible to all by adding a wheelchair entrance to the south end and upgrading the building elevator. All faculty labs (Magnetic Characterization, Infrared Spectroscopy, Computational Astrophysics and Electronic Measurement) were located away from the transformer vault.

The Advanced Lab was split into new Advanced and Radiation Labs so that experiments using radioactive materials are located in a separate room with controlled access. All labs were equipped with bench and overhead storage cabinets, allowing more efficient use of space.

The Wet Chemistry Lab was centrally located between the Vacuum and Advanced Labs. It was built with yellow lighting, separate solvent and acid sinks, and two clean hoods making it possible to support limited photolithography.