Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Machinists Build Precision Scientific Instruments

Photo by Dan Dry.

Ernie Mendoza at work in the University of Chicago machine shop.
Photo by Dan Dry.
Ernie Mendoza at work in the University of Chicago machine shop.

Abstract:
Some instruments or components built in the University of Chicago machine shop now sit on the surface of the moon and Mars, while others fly through deep space on Voyager 1 and 2, far beyond the orbit of Pluto, and other spacecraft. They also occupy the inhospitable environment of Antarctica.

Machinists Build Precision Scientific Instruments

Chicago, IL | Posted on January 7th, 2008

A distinguished European scientist appeared unannounced at the University in the early 1950s, when Roger Hildebrand was a young Assistant Professor in Physics.

"He said there was someone he wanted to meet," said Hildebrand, the Samuel K. Allison Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics. So Hildebrand asked if he wanted to meet Enrico Fermi, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a member of the Chicago faculty.

"He said, ‘Well, no. What I had in mind was meeting Tom O'Donnell.'"

As then-manager of the University's central machine shop, O'Donnell had worked closely with the late Albert Michelson, the University's first Nobel Prize-winning scientist. "Michelson made his mark by extremely precise measurements of various things like the speed of light. Tom O'Donnell was the guy who built that instrumentation," Hildebrand said.

Today, the Central Shop's machinists continue to build precision instruments for University scientists. Although housed in the Physical Sciences Division, the shop's services are available to scientists and physicians campus-wide.

Some instruments or components built in the shop now sit on the surface of the moon and Mars, while others fly through deep space on Voyager 1 and 2, far beyond the orbit of Pluto, and other spacecraft. They also occupy the inhospitable environment of Antarctica. The South Pole Telescope detects the afterglow of the big bang, as did its predecessor, the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer, with hardware provided by the Central Shop.

"The shop is an extraordinary resource for the University," said Steven Sibener, the Carl William Eisendrath Professor in Chemistry. "They make anything from large telescopes to probes for nanoscience. They're especially good when you need very precise components of large instruments," Sibener said.
In the area of chemical physics, the shop built sophisticated molecular beam machines for Yuan

Lee, a 1986 Nobel laureate in chemistry, when he was a member of the Chicago faculty from 1968 to 1974. The instruments enabled Lee to closely study the dynamics of chemical reactions.

And the University of Toronto's John Polanyi, who shared the Nobel Prize with Lee and Harvard University's Dudley Herschbach, also had a large instrument built here because of the shop's capabilities. "There is a whole generation of people in chemical physics from around the country who had very special instruments built here," Sibener said.

Sibener earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, under Lee's direction. Now, virtually every major piece of equipment in all of Sibener's five laboratories is a product of the Central Shop. His neutral-atom scattering apparatus, for example, allows his team to examine the structure of materials on an atomic scale.

"It was built in its entirety in this shop starting about 20 years ago, and it's been evolving with every generation of students since," Sibener said. Its precise components required alignments as fine as fractions of a thousandth of an inch over a meter distance.

"That is something one could not even contemplate buying commercially. It's a one-of-a-kind instrument, and it works gorgeously," he said.

The path between a concept and a new instrument is often a long one, said Stuart Rice, the Frank P. Hixson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Chemistry. Rice noted, "This is not just a shop in which you hand them a set of drawings and say, ‘Make it that way.'" Instead, Rice has found that the Central Shop's machinists have ideas that influence the development and design of his instruments.

"In fact, one of the things that I had built we actually published with the machinist on the experiment," Rice said. Four instrument makers staff the shop, including Foreman David Plitt, Ernie Mendoza, Robert Metz and Gordon Ward, along with crane operator Larry Fiscelli.

"The men always have something new to work on," Plitt said. "They come in every day, start a new job, and they know that's going to be a new adventure for them."

Decades ago, the University's instrument makers numbered in the scores. Plitt laments that skilled machinists are much harder to find these days. "I talked to our union rep. I was telling him, ‘There's no one out there we can hire.' He says, "There are no more apprenticeships.'"

Existing training programs do little more than teach the basics, Plitt said, and they fall short of the skills and artistry needed to work in his shop. "Aesthetics is very much a part of it," Rice said. "A really precise machine is a beautiful thing."

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Steve Koppes
773-702-8366

Copyright © Newswise

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

A nano-roundabout for light December 10th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 2016

Further improvement of qubit lifetime for quantum computers: New technique removes quasiparticles from superconducting quantum circuits December 9th, 2016

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D: Up-close, real-time, chemical-sensitive 3-D imaging offers clues for reducing cost/improving performance of catalysts for fuel-cell-powered vehicles and other applications December 8th, 2016

Academic/Education

Oxford Nanoimaging report on how the Nanoimager, a desktop microscope delivering single molecule, super-resolution performance, is being applied at the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology & Infection November 22nd, 2016

The University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria uses Deben tensile stages as an integral part of their computed tomography research and testing facility October 18th, 2016

Enterprise In Space Partners with Sketchfab and 3D Hubs for NewSpace Education October 13th, 2016

New Agricultural Research Center Debuts at UCF October 12th, 2016

Announcements

A nano-roundabout for light December 10th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 2016

Further improvement of qubit lifetime for quantum computers: New technique removes quasiparticles from superconducting quantum circuits December 9th, 2016

Chemical trickery corrals 'hyperactive' metal-oxide cluster December 8th, 2016

Tools

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D: Up-close, real-time, chemical-sensitive 3-D imaging offers clues for reducing cost/improving performance of catalysts for fuel-cell-powered vehicles and other applications December 8th, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Controlled electron pulses November 30th, 2016

Scientists shrink electron gun to matchbox size: Terahertz technology has the potential to enable new applications November 25th, 2016

Aerospace/Space

Infrared instrumentation leader secures exclusive use of Vantablack coating December 5th, 2016

New records set up with 'Screws of Light' November 20th, 2016

Keep it Clean: Leti and French Partners to Test ‘Smart’ Antibacterial Surfaces in Space: Matiss Experiment Designed to Measure Most Effective Material for Cleaning International Space Station and Is Expected to Provide Earth-bound Applications November 15th, 2016

Nanocellulose in medicine and green manufacturing: American University professor develops method to improve performance of cellulose nanocrystals November 7th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project