UW News

Department of Physics


September 16, 2019

KATRIN cuts the mass estimate for the elusive neutrino in half

A large piece of scientific equipment being moved through a town

An international team of scientists has announced a breakthrough in its quest to measure the mass of the neutrino, one of the most abundant, yet elusive, elementary particles in our universe. At the 2019 Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics conference in Toyama, Japan, leaders from the KATRIN experiment reported Sept. 13 that the estimated range for the rest mass of the neutrino is no larger than 1 electron volt, or eV.


September 9, 2019

Breakthrough Foundation honors UW researcher studying ‘exotic’ states of matter

Picture of Lukasz Fidkowski, assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington.

Lukasz Fidkowski, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington, is one of the winners of a 2020 New Horizons in Physics Prize from the Breakthrough Foundation. The prize to early-career scientists, announced Sept. 5, recognizes Fidkowski and his three co-recipients “for incisive contributions to the understanding of topological states of matter and the relationships between them.”


August 16, 2019

ArtsUW Roundup: Creating Alternative Worlds, Bulrusher, Final Week of James Coupe: Exercises in Passivity and more!

In the arts, celebrate the accomplishments of the 2019 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities program’s undergraduate researchers in “Creating Alternative Worlds,” attend Bulrusher – an Intiman Theatre production directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton at the Jones Playhouse, drop into the Library for the Fourth Wednesday Concert Series featuring Brian Schappals and more! Creating Alternative…


July 17, 2019

First-ever visualizations of electrical gating effects on electronic structure could lead to longer-lasting devices

Image of a 2D material

Scientists have visualized the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely tuned, high-performance electronic devices. Physicists from the University of Washington and the University of Warwick developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in operating microelectronic devices made of atomically thin — so-called 2D — materials.


July 16, 2019

8 UW professors elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in 2019

Suzzallo Library at night

Eight scientists and engineers from the University of Washington have been elected this year to the Washington State Academy of Sciences.


July 9, 2019

UW professors to receive 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Six University of Washington professors are to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, according to an announcement July 2 from the White House. The award, also known as the PECASE, is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to early-career scientists and engineers “who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.”


April 10, 2019

David Thouless — Nobel laureate and UW professor emeritus — dies at age 84

David Thouless in 2016.

David James Thouless, Nobel laureate and a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, died in Cambridge in the U.K. on April 6, 2019. He was 84 years old.


March 21, 2019

UW, Microsoft, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory establish new Northwest Quantum Nexus for a quantum revolution in science, technology

Portraits of two people

The University of Washington, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Microsoft Quantum announced this week that they have joined forces in a new coalition, the Northwest Quantum Nexus, to bring about a revolution in quantum research and technology.


March 5, 2019

FASER detector at the Large Hadron Collider to seek clues about hidden matter in the universe

A computer image of a device that will detect particles in the Large Hadron Collider.

On March 5, the CERN research board approved a new experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva to search for evidence of fundamental dark matter particles. UW scientists are part of this endeavor, the Forward Search Experiment — or FASER — which seeks to answer one of the outstanding questions in particle physics: What is dark matter made of?


February 25, 2019

It’s all in the twist: Physicists stack 2D materials at angles to trap particles on the nanoscale, creating a unique platform to study quantum optical physics

A depiction of single-layer semiconductors.

In a paper published Feb. 25 in the journal Nature, a University of Washington-led team of physicists report that it has developed a new system to trap individual excitons — bound pairs of electrons and their associated positive charges. Their system could form the basis of a novel experimental platform for monitoring excitons with precision and potentially developing new quantum technologies.


November 13, 2018

Scientists engineer a functional optical lens out of 2D materials

An image of four lenses under a microscope.

In a paper published Oct. 8 in the journal Nano Letters, a team from the University of Washington and the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan announced that it has constructed functional metalenses that are one-tenth to one-half the thickness of the wavelengths of light that they focus. Their metalenses, which were constructed out of layered 2D materials, were as thin as 190 nanometers — less than 1/100,000ths of an inch thick.


October 24, 2018

UW physicist Jiun-Haw Chu named Packard Fellow for research on quantum materials

A person standing in a lab.

Jiun-Haw Chu, a University of Washington assistant professor of physics and faculty member at the UW’s Clean Energy Institute, has been named a 2018 fellow by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for his research on quantum materials — substances that exhibit novel combinations of quantum-mechanical properties that could one day transform information technology.


September 4, 2018

NSF to fund new $25M software institute to enable discoveries in high-energy physics

A simulation of a particle physics experiment.

On Sept. 4 the National Science Foundation announced the creation of the Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High Energy Physics, or IRIS-HEP. The institute is a coalition of 17 research institutions, including the University of Washington, and will receive $25 million from the NSF over five years.


August 9, 2018

For UW physicists, the 2-D form of tungsten ditelluride is full of surprises

Two monolayers interacting

In a paper published online July 23 in the journal Nature, a UW-led research team reports that the 2-D form of tungsten ditelluride can undergo “ferroelectric switching.” Materials with ferroelectric properties can have applications in memory storage, capacitors, RFID card technologies and even medical sensors — and tungsten ditelluride is the first exfoliated 2-D material known to undergo ferroelectric switching.


May 3, 2018

Atomically thin magnetic device could lead to new memory technologies

A depiction of the crystal structure of chromium triiodide (CrI3), with chromium atoms shown in purple and iodine atoms in yellow. The black arrows represent the electron "spins," which are analogous to tiny bar magnets.

In a study published online May 3 in the journal Science, a University of Washington-led team announced that it has discovered a method to encode information using magnets that are just a few layers of atoms in thickness. This breakthrough may revolutionize both cloud computing technologies and consumer electronics by enabling data storage at a greater density and improved energy efficiency.


April 9, 2018

After 30 years of R&D, breakthrough announced in dark matter detection technology, definitive search to begin for axion particles

Two men standing in a particle physics laboratory

This week, the Axion Dark Matter Experiment (ADMX) announced that it has achieved the necessary sensitivity to “hear” the telltale signs of dark matter axions. This technological breakthrough is the result of more than 30 years of research and development, with the latest piece of the puzzle coming in the form of a quantum-enabled device that allows ADMX to listen for axions more closely than any experiment ever built.


March 26, 2018

Underground neutrino experiment sets the stage for deep discovery about matter

Copper housing for a stack of germanium detectors.

In a study published March 26 in Physical Review Letters, collaborators of the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR have shown they can shield a sensitive, scalable 44-kilogram germanium detector array from background radioactivity. This accomplishment is critical to developing a much larger future experiment to study the nature of neutrinos.


February 20, 2018

Using a laser to wirelessly charge a smartphone safely across a room

Five people posing

Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time developed a method to safely charge a smartphone wirelessly using a laser.


February 12, 2018

Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

A portion of the team’s experimental setup for capturing an image using a metalens. The researchers capture an image of flowers through a metalens (mounted on a microscope slide) and visualize it through a microscope.

In a paper published Feb. 9 in Science Advances, scientists at the University of Washington announced that they have successfully combined two different imaging methods — a type of lens designed for nanoscale interaction with lightwaves, along with robust computational processing — to create full-color images.


October 16, 2017

UW researchers mark first detection of gravitational waves from collision of two neutron stars

For the first time, scientists have detected gravitational waves from the merger of two neutron stars.


June 7, 2017

Scientists discover a 2-D magnet

A top-view depiction of a single layer of CrI3. Chromium atoms are depicted in grey, with iodine atoms in purple.

A team led by the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has for the first time discovered magnetism in the 2-D world of monolayers, or materials that are formed by a single atomic layer. The findings, published June 8 in the journal Nature, demonstrate that magnetic properties can exist even in the 2-D realm — opening a world of potential applications.


June 2, 2017

UW, UW Bothell scientists explain new discovery in gravitational wave astronomy

The announcement that a third collision of black holes has been detected three billion light years away validates the work of hundreds of scientists, including teams at the University of Washington and UW Bothell.


April 17, 2017

Remembering Ernest Henley, physicist and UW College of Arts & Sciences dean emeritus

Ernest Mark Henley, a celebrated nuclear physicist and University of Washington administrator, died on March 27, 2017, at age 92.


March 21, 2017

Hans Dehmelt — Nobel laureate and UW professor emeritus — has died at age 94

Hans Dehmelt in 1989.

Hans Georg Dehmelt, Nobel physics laureate and professor emeritus at the University of Washington, died in Seattle on March 7, 2017 at age 94. Dehmelt was a celebrated scientist who, in a research career spanning more than half a century, developed methods to isolate atoms and subatomic particles and measure their fundamental properties with high accuracy.


December 14, 2016

In Stockholm ceremony, UW professor emeritus David Thouless receives Nobel Physics Prize

The Nobel Prize Ceremony

On Dec. 10 in Stockholm, David James Thouless, University of Washington professor emeritus of physics, received the Nobel Prize in Physics from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.


October 4, 2016

UW Professor Emeritus David J. Thouless wins Nobel Prize in physics for exploring exotic states of matter

An illustration of how “heavy water” within the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory detects neutrinos from the sun.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday that David James Thouless, professor emeritus at the University of Washington, will share the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics with two of his colleagues. Thouless splits the prize with Professor F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and Professor J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter,” according to the prize announcement from the Academy. Half the prize goes to Thouless while Haldane and Kosterlitz divide the remaining half. Thouless is the UW’s seventh Nobel laureate, and second in physics after Hans Dehmelt in 1989.


May 13, 2016

UW researchers unleash graphene ‘tiger’ for more efficient optoelectronics

In traditional light-harvesting methods, energy from one photon only excites one electron or none depending on the absorber’s energy gap, transferring just a small portion of light energy into electricity. The remaining energy is lost as heat. But in a paper released May 13 in Science Advances, Wu, UW associate professor Xiaodong Xu and colleagues at four other institutions describe one promising approach to coax photons into stimulating multiple electrons. Their method exploits some surprising quantum-level interactions to give one photon multiple potential electron partners.


February 23, 2016

Four UW scientists awarded Sloan Fellowships for early-career research

Four faculty members at the University of Washington have been awarded early-career fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The new Sloan Fellows, announced Feb. 23, include Bingni Brunton, assistant professor of biology; Christopher Laumann, assistant professor of physics; Matthew McQuinn, assistant professor of astronomy; and Emina Torlak, assistant professor of computer science and engineering….


February 12, 2016

UW scientists create ultrathin semiconductor heterostructures for new technological applications

An illustration of the strong valley exciton interactions and transport in a 2-D semiconductor heterostructure.

University of Washington scientists have successfully combined two different ultrathin semiconductors — each just one layer of atoms thick and roughly 100,000 times thinner than a human hair — to make a new two-dimensional heterostructure with potential uses in clean energy and optically-active electronics.


February 11, 2016

Gravitational waves detected 100 years after Einstein’s prediction

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at the Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.


November 19, 2015

After Nobel win, neutrino endeavors snag Breakthrough Prize in Physics

Neutrinos may be small, but when it comes to prizes, they pack quite a punch. In October, it was announced that two scientists who headed international projects to study these miniscule, seemingly ephemeral subatomic particles will share the Nobel Prize in Physics. On Nov. 8, these same scientists joined five of their colleagues from other…


October 11, 2015

UW physicists celebrate contribution to Nobel-winning neutrino discoveries

At 2:45 a.m. on Oct. 6, bleary-eyed Nobel Prize enthusiasts on the West Coast were treated to an unexpected lesson about fundamental particles and forces in our universe. Across the globe in Stockholm, a panel of scientists announced that the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics would honor two scientists who led international collaborations to understand…


September 28, 2015

A new single-molecule tool to observe enzymes at work

nanopore channel

A team of scientists at the University of Washington and the biotechnology company Illumina have created an innovative tool to directly detect the delicate, single-molecule interactions between DNA and enzymatic proteins. Their approach provides a new platform to view and record these nanoscale interactions in real time. As they report Sept. 28 in Nature Biotechnology, this tool should provide fast and reliable characterization of the different mechanisms cellular proteins use to bind to DNA strands — information that could shed new light on the atomic-scale interactions within our cells and help design new drug therapies against pathogens by targeting enzymes that interact with DNA.


September 24, 2015

Cooled down and charged up, a giant magnet is ready for its new mission

The fully assembled magnet at Fermilab.

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory — or Fermilab — announced that a 680-ton superconducting magnet is secure in its new home and nearly ready for a new era of discovery in particle physics. This achievement follows the delicate, 3,200-mile transport of the magnet’s 17-ton, 50-foot-wide housing ring to the U.S. Department of Energy facility outside Chicago two years ago. The fully assembled magnet will drive high-energy particle experiments as part of an international partnership among 34 institutions, of which the University of Washington is a leading contributor.


June 3, 2015

‘Stable beams’ achieved: Large Hadron Collider at CERN research facility begins recording data

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research are dwarfed by the Atlas particle detector, part of the Large Hadron Collider.

The Large Hadron Collider has started recording data from the highest-energy particle collisions ever achieved on Earth. This new data, the first recorded since 2012, will enable an international collaboration of researchers — including many from the UW — to study the Higgs boson, search for dark matter and develop a more complete understanding of the laws of nature.


May 28, 2015

Physicists conduct most precise measurement yet of interaction between atoms and carbon surfaces

An illustration of atoms sticking to a carbon nanotube, affecting the electrons in its surface.

UW physicists have conducted the most precise and controlled measurements yet of the interaction between the atoms and molecules that comprise air and the type of carbon surface used in battery electrodes and air filters — key information for improving those technologies.


April 28, 2015

UW apparatus measures single electron’s radiation to try to weigh a neutrino

colorful block figure

UW researchers and their collaborators used an experiment in the physics building to measure the energy of a single electron emitted by radioactive decay, a key step in their strategy to measure the mass of the elusive neutrino.


March 23, 2015

UW scientists build a nanolaser using a single atomic sheet

University of Washington scientists have built a new nanometer-sized laser using a semiconductor that’s only three atoms thick. It could help open the door to next-generation computing that uses light, rather than electrons, to transfer information.


October 8, 2014

UW fusion reactor concept could be cheaper than coal

A prototype of the UW's current fusion experiment.

University of Washington engineers have designed a concept for a fusion reactor that, when scaled up to the size of a large electrical power plant, would rival costs for a new coal-fired plant with similar electrical output.


August 26, 2014

Scientists craft a semiconductor junction only three atoms thick

As seen under an optical microscope, the heterostructures have a triangular shape. The two different monolayer semiconductors can be recognized through their different colors.

Scientists have developed what they believe is the thinnest-possible semiconductor, a new class of nanoscale materials made in sheets only three atoms thick.



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