This Major Research Instrumentation RUI grant supports acquisition of a powder x-ray diffractometer (XRD). The XRD is an extremely useful tool in materials characterization. The lattice plane distance measurements it yields make possible the identification of unknown crystalline compounds. The XRD will enhance a vigorous research program in novel materials by identifying compounds grown in single crystal form by precipitation from solution, a technique known as flux growth. Once identified, these single crystals will be characterized using an existing instrument at Grinnell, which measures dc magnetization, ac susceptibility, resistivity, magnetoresistivity, and heat capacity. This research is pursued as a strongly collaborative effort between the principal investigator, undergraduates at Grinnell, and colleagues at Ames Laboratory. Examples of current research projects the XRD will support include studies of magnetic anisotropy in rare earth intermetallic single crystals and the design of a strongly anisotropic spin glass in single crystal form, to be used as a model system for testing spin glass theories. The results of these projects will be disseminated broadly through peer-reviewed journal publications with student co-authors and through presentations at national conferences.
Because research is always blended with teaching at Grinnell, the XRD will have impact beyond the research projects that it supports. Students will use the XRD in collaborative research with the principal investigator, faculty-mentored independent student projects, and experiments in courses taken by physics majors. Grinnell College has attained national recognition for its successful efforts to increase the retention of under-represented groups in science through programs such as the New Science Project. The XRD will help to broaden the exposure of under-represented groups to research quality instrumentation in their education and research training.