Martin Mourigal Receives ORAU Award

Martin Mourigal Receives ORAU Award

Physicist will use award in part to pay for students’ trips to ORNL


The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) have selected School of Physics Assistant Professor Martin Mourigal as one of 35 recipients of the 2016 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards. The award represents public recognition by academic peers of the quality and promise of Mourigal’s research.

Mourigal says he will use the award partly to pay for student trips to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to conduct experiments using the Spallation Neutron Source there.

Mourigal’s research aims to connect atomic structure and dynamics to emergent collective phenomena, which occurs when the behavior of a collection is different from that of its parts. Examples of such phenomena are superconductivity, which allows electron to flow without resistance, and quantum-spin liquids, which are exotic magnets arising from the entanglement of electrons’ magnetic moments, or spins.  Both phenomena emerge from complex interactions among large numbers of electrons and are “incredibly difficult to predict theoretically,” says Mourigal.   

Neutron scattering is a major tool Mourigal uses to study how electron spins organize. ORNL’s SNS, which generates an unprecedentedly high flow of neutrons and has exquisite detection efficiency, “allows radically new experiments to be performed,” he says.

In particular, Mourigal aims to study three magnetic materials for which exotic behavior has been proposed or observed. He hopes to identify model behavior in these materials by comparing experimental results to the most advanced predictions from theory.