Experimental Cloud Physics Laboratory

Welcome to the cloud physics lab.  Please take a few minutes to explore the innovative work that has been conducted by our TCNJ students.  If you are a current or prospective TCNJ student, exciting research opportunities are available, so please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Research Topics and Techniques

Ice Crystal ESEM Nanoanalysis: In collaboration with the Princeton University Imaging and Analysis Center we are using  Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy to take some of the highest magnification, highest-resolution images and movies of ice crystals ever recorded. Take a look at our videos on vimeo.

Ice Crystal ESEM Nanoanalysis

Spectroscopic In-Situ Ellipsometery: With the help of a grant from the Research Corporation, our lab is now equipped with a state-of-the-art Horiba Inc. Ellipsometer to make measurements of thin films with precision of less than 1 nm.  We are in the process of perfecting ice growth in the ellipsometer chamber in order to study surface nanostructures of ice films.

Spectroscopic In-Situ Ellipsometery

Acoustic Raindrop Distrometer: We’re working on an building and testing an inexpensive device that can electronically measure and sort raindrop sizes by “listening” to the sound of drop impacts using a piezoelectric pickup.  The distribution of drop sizes plays an important role in calibrating radar reflectivity with a real rainfall rate.  Our prototype system measured more than 8000 raindrop sizes in one minute during a Hurricane Sandy squall.

Remote sensing analysis of overshooting tops in Tornadic Supercells: TCNJ students are analyzing specialty high resolution radar and satellite data in an attempt to better understand the dynamics of supercell thunderstorms around the instant of tornado formation.  We are aiming to provide research that would contribute to increased effectiveness of NWS tornado warnings.

Remote sensing analysis of overshooting tops in Tornadic Supercells

Ice Crystal Optical Microphotography: An Olympus stereomicroscope, digital photography, and custom-built cold-stage are used to photograph natural and lab-grown ice crystals.  Analysis of these images promises to answer several open questions about ice crystal morphology and growth characteristics.  Also, they are pretty.

Ice Crystal Optical Microphotography 1
Multi-crystal dendritic snowflake, partly melted. Captured at TCNJ during early snow shower, October 28, 2008.
Ice Crystal Optical Microphotography 2
Olympus SZ-60 and SCION firewire CCD

Electrodynamic Levitation: High AC voltages are applied to a symmetric electrode geometry, resulting in an electric field that traps a charged particle along the central axis of the levitation cell.  Water droplets and ice crystals can be levitated for hours on end.  The properties of the particles are then probed in an effort to refine our understanding of how cloud particles respond to varied conditions of ambient temperature, humidity, and pressure.

Electrodynamic Levitation 1
Quadrupole levitation cell built in physics machine shop by
physics major, John Beatty.
Electrodynamic Levitation 2
High voltage, 4 channel, variable frequency AC power supply
Custom electronics equipment on loan from Penn State