Professor Daniel Maser awarded American Chemical Society grant for broadband laser research
Assistant Professor of Physics Daniel Maser has been awarded a $55,000 Undergraduate New Investigator (UNI) grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF). The grant will support his research into using broadband laser sources, known as optical frequency combs, to precisely measure a group of rotational transitions in benzene, a common hydrocarbon and solvent. Maser will be applying his specialty in experimental optical physics to the field of physical chemistry in this research program.
Optical frequency combs are essentially the combination of one million single-frequency lasers—the “teeth” of the comb—where each comb tooth corresponds to a different color. They act like a ruler for light, measuring exact frequencies quickly and accurately. Here, they will be used to simultaneously determine the positions and strengths for transitions across the entire 1.65 µm absorption band of benzene. In order for these features to be individually distinguishable, a jet of benzene is sprayed into a vacuum chamber, where it expands and rapidly cools, narrowing the transition features so the laser can detect them.
With support from ACS PRF, Maser and his students will assemble the vacuum system where measurements will take place, construct the frequency comb spectrometer that will be used for detection, and stabilize the combs so that these individual rotational states can be precisely measured. The two-year grant provides funding for specialized hardware and supplies, stipends that will enable five Connecticut College students to work on the project with Maser over the next several summers, and funds for Maser and student researchers to attend academic conferences to present results.
The goals of ACS PRF are to support fundamental research in the petroleum field and to develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through support of advanced scientific education. The Undergraduate New Investigator grant helps initiate the research programs of early-career science and engineering faculty at undergraduate research institutions.