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Introduction to the course

Dr Kate Lancaster welcomes you to the course and summarises what we will learn over the next three weeks.
Welcome to Frontier Physics, Future Technologies. Over the next three weeks we’ll explore three important and exciting areas of modern physics research, both around the world and here at the University of York. We start with plasmas, the fourth state of matter. Even though we’re all familiar with solids, liquids and gases in the world around us, plasmas make up the vast majority of the universe. Here on Earth we find them in fluorescent lights, in lightning and auroras. In space, the sun and the other stars are giant balls of hot plasma. One big area of plasma research is trying to reproduce the conditions inside the stars here on earth, to create the energy source known as nuclear fusion.
If successful, fusion could lead to abundant clean energy for the future. Not all plasmas are hot, though. Low temperature plasmas are amazingly useful, in manufacturing, a range of medical applications and even for plasma propulsion! In week two we zoom in to examine the world of solid materials at the nanoscale, and learn how physicists are constructing and manipulating materials even down to the level of individual atoms. We’ll see the fascinating ways these tiny structures interact with light, which we can use to design innovative devices, like highly efficient solar cells, and biosensors that use light to detect infection. In week three we zoom in even more to explore the quantum world of particle physics.
First, we encounter the standard model, our best understanding of the particles and forces that make up the universe. Then we learn how physicists detect these minute particles, starting with photons, the particles of light. And then we’ll examine how we can use particle physics, from the strange and fascinating new application of quantum communication, to medical technologies like PET scans. And then, we zoom right out to investigate one of the universe’s great mysteries. Our researchers are exploring whether the strange, invisible cosmic dark matter that binds galaxies together is the result of ephemeral particles called hexaquarks.
Throughout this course, you’ll explore many fascinating areas of physics research, which help us understand the world in ever greater detail, as well as create innovative new materials, instruments, devices and medicines. You’ll also meet many of the University of York’s physicists, from our enthusiastic research students to our inspiring world-leading experts. We hope it encourages you to explore more physics in the world around you, and even consider the career possibilities that further study in physics can open up. And most of all, we hope you enjoy exploring this fascinating, amazing universe around us!

Over the next three weeks we’ll explore plasma physics and fusion, what the world looks like at the nanoscale, and our current understanding of the building blocks of the universe. We will delve into the fundamental physics that our researchers investigate, as well as discovering its exciting applications in the real world.

  • Week 1: Plasma Physics and Fusion
  • Week 2: Exploring the Nanoscale
  • Week 3: Particles and the Quantum World

We hope that you enjoy the course, and please do take every opportunity to contribute to the discussions which will be taking place. What are you most excited to learn about in this course? Tell us below.

In the next step we want to give you chance to meet the team and your fellow learners.

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Frontier Physics, Future Technologies

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