Lab Focus: Mechanical Engineering

Project Name: Sonification of the Periodic Table

Project Description: Many of us know that we are surrounded by sound waves that travel in the air around us, but maybe only a few of us know that we are also surrounded by sound waves that travel inside the solid materials that we have around ourselves. In fact, all the jiggling of atoms in a solid material come together to make different tones and pitches of sounds in that solid structure. This is the reason that physicists, from old days, have used the term “phonon” (phon in Greek means sound) to describe all these atomic jigglings (vibrations) in the solid structure. Aside from the sound nature of these atomic vibrations, they play a huge role in determining many of the properties in solid materials. For instance, these sound waves can determine how strong a solid material is or how fast it can respond to a temperature change in its surroundings. Therefore, obtaining a deeper knowledge about these sound waves will help us better understand the properties that each solid material exhibits.

Recently, physicists showed that these sound waves are unique to that solid structure and can essentially be considered as a finger-print of that material. In this project, for the first time, we are going to take the sound-finger-print of all the elements in the periodic table. We will achieve this goal by first simulating the movement of atoms in the solid structure of all the elements using a special software, and then converting all the obtained information to sound files. This sound files are in the form of music files and will exactly represent the sounds that each specific element is making all the time, but now it can be heard for the first time by human ears. By working on this project, the student will not only learn important computer programming skills, but they will also learn the physical reasons of why the interactions between the atoms and electrons result in this broad spectrum of sound waves in solid structures.

Laboratory Mentors:

Kiarash Gordiz – PhD

Andrew Rohskopf – PhD Candidate