WFU Department of Physics Wake Forest University


Wake Forest Physics
Nationally recognized for teaching excellence;
internationally respected for research advances;
a focused emphasis on interdisciplinary study and close student-faculty collaboration; committed
to a diverse and inclusive environment.

Research Facilities

Olin Physical Laboratory

Olin Physical LaboratoryThe department of physics is located in the Olin Physical Laboratory, a new building near the center of the campus. The building has excellent space for teaching, research, and study.

Well-equipped laboratories are available for experimental research, including: the laboratory for laser interaction with materials and surfaces includes a subpicosecond amplified dye laser and streak camera for time- resolved studies, an excimer laser, scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopes, an ultrahigh vacuum surface analysis system, and laser ablation chambers. Surface science experiments are also conducted offcampus at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University

nanotechThe Center for Nanotechnology (NANOTECH) is the newest addition to the Department of Physics. Located adjacent to the Reynolda Campus of Wake Forest University, NANOTECH offers over 6000 sq. ft. of dedicated lab space. These facilities are divided up into five labs: an organic device lab for prototyping, an optical characterization lab, a microscopy lab with both STM/AFM scanning probes and electron microscopy, a transport lab capable of 4.2 K, and a growth lab. The facilities are open for use by the Wake Forest community, collaborators, and industrial partners.

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Center for Structural Biology at Wake Forest University

Several of the department's faculty are also part of the Center for Structural Biology. Its facilities include X-Ray Diffraction Laboratory, the Biomolecular Computing and Graphics Facility, the   Biomolecular Resource Facility, Protein NMR and Mass Spectrometry, and more.

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Wake Forest University DEAC Linux Cluster

DEAC ClusterThe DEAC Linux Cluster has 153 computational nodes dedicated to research and teaching use. These nodes are connected via gigabit Ethernet to 6 disk server nodes. The disk server nodes provide a parallel, distributed file-system interface to the fiber channel storage area network (FC SAN). This cluster is managed with 4 maintenance nodes, through which users access it. The cluster FC SAN is based on a 7TB (usable) IBM ESS 800 storage device. This device has 4 FC connections to redundant 8 port switches. The 6 disk servers have dual FC adapters to redundantly attach to the FC switches. Connectivity to the compute nodes is provided by the dual, redundant gigabit Ethernet connectivity to the cluster core network switch. This arrangement provides the highest possible fault tolerance and results in stable environment for compute nodes to access data. The cluster is directly connected to the Wake Forest University campus core network router through fiber-based, gigabit Ethernet.

DEAC ClusterThe cluster, hardware, and software are fully supported by the Wake Forest University Information Services Department. The WFU DEAC cluster is co-located at a commercial server room facility in downtown Winston Salem, NC adjacent to the Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP). The WFU DEAC cluster is the primary tenant of this server room, measuring approximately 625 sq ft with an additional finished 625 sq ft expansion capability. At its current configuration, it can support the power needs for cluster growth up to a factor of 2 in size and the space needs for a factor of 5 increase in cluster size. Internally, the cluster is capable of significant growth. By design, the cluster scales on all fronts through the simple addition of hardware: computational power scales by adding compute nodes, interactive logins scales by adding head nodes, cluster maintenance requirements scale by adding maintenance nodes, disk bandwidth scales by adding disk nodes to the GPFS file system, disk capacity scales by adding fibre channel based storage to the SAN. (Computing budget will enable upgrade or purchase of disk or nodes for this cluster (and an additional web server)).

One of the most important responsibilities the DEAC/Osiris cluster undertakes is the education of the students at Wake Forest University. Clusters provide enormous computational power to tackle more advanced scientific problems, opening up the possibility for our students to gain a unique perspective on topics in the forefront of research today. Any faculty member can request the use of the cluster for a course they are teaching. Several courses actively use the DEAC/Osiris cluster to enhance the student's exposure to the advanced computing environment provided by the University.

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EPR, Spectrophotometers and Lasers

The EPR laboratory has a computer-controlled spectrometer, low- temperature facilities for studies to 4K, and X-ray and laser equipment for sample irradiation.

The Williams LabThe atomic and optical physics laboratory includes two high-powered pulsed Nd:YAG lasers, an Ar+ laser, two pulsed dye lasers, several single-mode tunable diode lasers, a research class microscope for optical tweezers and significant vacuum equipment. In addition, a Perkin-Elmer spectrophotometer is available. This laboratory has capabilities for studying light-forces on atoms, clusters, nanostructures, and biological specimens.

Measurements on dynamics of DNA in gels during pulsed-field electrophoresis are carried out in a computer-controlled system which allows laser-excited fluorescence monitoring of DNA velocity and alignment during acceleration of the DNA by an electric field. DNA motions can be observed in 2-D using a 300 mw laser and image detection. The dynamics of single DNA molecules during electrophoresis are also being studied by video microscopy.

The Bonin LabMeasurements of relaxation of defects in ionic solids are conducted with thermally stimulated depolarization measurements.

A laboratory for microwave absorption in biosystems is located at the medical school.

Magnetic resonance imaging facilities are located at the medical school.

For high temperature superconductor studies, there is a materials preparation laboratory, facilities for thin-film deposition, and a characterization laboratory including stations for measurement of bulk and contact resistivity, AC and DC susceptibility, and van der Pauw measurements.

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Thin-Film Physical Vapor Deposition System

The Thin-Film Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) instrument located in Olin 209 is capable of accurately depositing layers of materials ranging from metals, to organic solids, and oxides. The instrument has a central e-beam evaporator in which up to 4 different target materials may be loaded and sequentially evaporated via a pre-defined, computer-controlled recipe. The e-beam allows for fine control ranging from very rapid deposition rates (up to 410 Å/sec) to slower rates of around 1 Å/sec. Continuous and uniform films as thin as 3 nm can be deposited using this method.

In addition, the system includes two thermal evaporators in which resistive element heating evaporates the user-loaded base materials. Both metals and oxides can be successfully evaporated using the thermal evaporators. Also here, the rate of deposition can be accurately controlled.

The instrument also contains two low-temperature evaporators (LTEs) that are particularly useful in depositing organic materials or other materials with lower sublimation temperature. The LTEs are loaded with the base powder and can either sequentially evaporate or both at the same time for a co-deposition, each at independent rates as desired.

The evaporation chamber is accessible via a hinged door in the rear of the machine, which opens to the lab or by a sliding door on the inside of the attached glovebox. With the glovebox, it is possible to conduct sample preparation in an inert, nitrogen environment and load the sample to be coated without exposing it to atmosphere. After it is loaded and the door closed, the process is entirely controlled by user-defined recipes through a touch-screen computer interface. A cryo-pump evacuates the chamber down to base pressures of 10-7 to 10-8 torr within less than two hours. Once the base pressure is reached, the evaporation can be automated with desired thickness, rate, and material properties as defined by the user. Four crystal monitors are arranged within the chamber to measure the rate and accumulated thickness, which are used in the PID controlled feedback loop.

The instrument is accessible to all WFU students, faculty and staff. For more information please contact Dr. Peter Diemer at

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Other Computing Resources at Wake Forest

Several computer facilities are available for computational physics and theoretical research:

Access to the campus network and to the Internet are provided by a complete campus 802.11a/g wireless network. Wired network jacks supplement the wireless system with connections in experimental laboratories, faculty and student offices and work areas, and at every classroom seat. All ports use switched technology for maximum throughput.

The academic campus computer is available to all students and faculty for fast parallel processor computations. Graphics and symbolic algebra software is also available on this machine.

All undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty are issued IBM Thinkpad laptops with an extensive software load.

WFU Library Facilities

The adjacent Z. Smith Reynolds Library houses a substantial collection of research journals and monographs. 

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Page Links
Olin Physical Laboratory
Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials
Center for Structural Biology
DEAC Linux Cluster
EPR, Spectrophotometers and Lasers
Thin-Film Vapor Deposition
Computing Resources
Library Facilities

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100 Olin Physical Laboratory
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC 27109-7507
Phone: (336) 758-5337, FAX: (336) 758-6142