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Crystal Clear

Stephen D. Wilson stands in front of a traditional floating zone furnace.

A University of California, Santa Barbara professor is working on a new frontier of materials that could lead to the 21st century equivalent of silicon.

Credit: Spencer Bruttig

University of California, Santa Barbara professor Stephen D. Wilson is working to find the 21st century's equivalent of silicon.

The recipient of a $1-million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, Wilson plans to design a refined ultra-high-purity crystal growth process once used for making silicon. His team is building new hardware that can use the same process to produce crystals of volatile and high-pressure stabilized oxides. Theoretical research suggests these targeted compounds represent a new frontier of materials that will lead to a multitude of new quantum states.

Existing floating-zone furnaces use ellipsoidal mirrors to focus light from halogen bulbs to a point inside a transparent growth chamber, usually comprised of a quartz cylinder. Wilson's new design for the floating-zone furnace uses a laser as a heat source, enabling the growth chamber to be made of metal with strategically placed sapphire windows that should allow for higher pressures. "Then we're going to use this furnace to grow and explore materials in this new regime where new quantum states are being predicted," Wilson says.

From The UC Santa Barbara Current
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