• Question: In your jobs, how advanced are the concepts that you use? For example, do you employ theories like the Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein statistics, or less complicated physics?

    Asked by Schrodinger's Dog to Andres, Andy, Emma, Shahil, Zoe on 6 Mar 2017.
    • Photo: Zoe Lonsdale

      Zoe Lonsdale answered on 6 Mar 2017:

      The concepts that i use are more in the hydraulics field. The physics tends to be general mechanical theory of materials and their behaviour under load. Particle physics in our industry is more centered around development of innovative materials or nanotechnology.

    • Photo: Emma Ryan

      Emma Ryan answered on 6 Mar 2017:

      I use very specialised bits of equipment that are based on quantum theory. I am more than happy to go into it if you’re interested in Quantum Physics, please read below. Apologies if I go too far, I do not know much you’ve learned at school.

      So atoms are made up of neutrons, protons and electrons (I’m not going to go more complicated than that at the moment). The neutrons and protons are found in the nucelus and the electrons are found in shells around the nucleus. These shells are really a description of the electron’s energy level. Electrons can only be found in a shell which means there are only certain energies an electron can be (also known as quantum states).

      Each element has a different number of electrons and this affects the energy levels (due to electron configuration). The binding energy is a term used to describe the energy required to move the electron away from the nucleus (the positive protons and the negative electrons are attracted to each other and this binds them together). Each element has different binding energies (because of all the different forces being applied). I have described this bit horribly but I hope you get the idea.

      This can help us in lots of different ways. We can fire x-rays on our samples which will give the electrons enough energy to move away from the nucleus. We then measure the kinetic energy of the electrons that we detect. We know how much energy the original x-ray beam has and how much energy it must’ve given the electrons. By subtracting the kinetic energy away from the beam energy, we then know the binding energy (conservation of energy law applies) and can then work out which element is in the sample as, said before, each element has a different binding energy. This is called x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. It is a little bit more complicated than this due to collisions and the necessary modelling but this is the basics.

      I hope you found it interesting and it showed how Physics can be applied to Engineering. If you would like to know more about any more of these concepts, I’m sure Google and Wikipedia is a good starting point. Things to search:
      Binding energy
      Photoelectric Effect
      Electron Configuration
      Electron shells

    • Photo: Andy Woods

      Andy Woods answered on 6 Mar 2017:

      We don’t use physics much more than Newton’s laws of motion. What we do have to deal with is complexity of systems which can be as complicated as some of this physics. When you have computer networks passing messages around correctly every time and systems which are designed not to fail for 40 years this requires very deep knowledge of the systems and the behaviours of complex software and hardware. The physics for us is the easiest part!

    • Photo: Andres Rivero

      Andres Rivero answered on 7 Mar 2017:

      Hi Schrodinger’s Dog,

      I can tell that you are very into quantum physics. I don’t particularly use it as I work in a macro-scale (continuum mechanics instead of quantum mechanics). However, I do have colleagues that do use quantum physics principles in their work and it is mainly to study the behaviour of nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene (look them up if you are interested!)