West Virginia Wesleyan College

Department of Physics and Engineering

Senior Research Projects




Devon Miller—Pulsejet engine. A jet engine discharges a fast moving efflux of gas that generates thrust in accordance with Newton’s third law. In a pulsejet engine, thrust is generated by combustion that occurs in pulses. I adjusted inlet geometry, outlet geometry, and fuel-to-air ratio to determine the effect on thrust.


Rachel Haas—Lift and drag of an airfoil. Aircraft are designed for a variety of purposes, such as transporting passengers, flying stealth missions, and militarily engaging an enemy. No single airfoil design is optimal for all purposes. Rachel tested the following airfoil types: NACA 2515, 0015, and 6716. My project is related to my summer internship at Raytheon.





Jerry Caligiure—Gravitation and the Pioneer Anomaly. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 are two spacecraft NASA sent to the outer Solar System in the 1970s. The Pioneer anomaly is a small discrepancy between the actual path and the path predicted by classical physics. Thie discrepancy can be explained by adding a small additional acceleration toward the Sun. One proposed explanation lies in Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which I used to calculate the theoretical positions of the spacecraft while they passed Jupiter. My results showed moderate agreement with the experimental data.


Joe Satterfield—The proper motion of the neutron star in Cassiopeia A. I used data from the high-resolution camera on the Chandra X-ray observatory to measure the proper motion of the neutron star in Cassiopeia A over 10 years. My measurements indicate a motion of 400 m/s in a south/southeast direction. This motion is consistent with the inferred proper motion based on the offset of the neutron star from the center of the expansion of the optical ejecta. I gratefully acknowledge NASA’s support for my project.





Kyle Allard—Pulsed Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Organic Compounds. The pulsed NMR apparatus allows two types of investigations: relaxation time analysis and spectra of atoms in magnetic fields. I measured solutions of various concentrations, molecular dynamics, and ionization states. Solution structure is a method for atomic-resolution of structure of macromolecules dissolved in water or membranes. Molecular dynamics is a technique for quantifying motion of macromolecules. Ionization state measurements determine the chemical properties of macromolecules. I also made measurements of hydrogen-rich materials such as glycerin versus time.





Norm Biggs—Impurity diffusion of cesium in silver chloride. Impurity diffusion involves movement of an impurity from a high-concentration area to a lower-concentration area. Chris placed a drop of solution containing radioactive cesium-137 on a cube of silver chloride and then placed the cube in a furnace. After several hours, he removed the cube, ground the top surface, and measured the radioactivity as a function of depth from the top to obtain a penetration profile. Norm obtained the activation energy by comparing penetration profiles at different temperatures.




Mechanical Engineering


Derek Johnson—Footfall energy harvesting. When a person is walking, power is expended at about 324 W, but only about 25% of this energy produces useful leg output. Other outputs include arm motion, breathing, and heat exhaled. My objective is to design a device to harvest a portion of the remaining 75% to charge a battery and power a cell phone. I modified a pair of shoes to retract alternating cables on each footfall. I designed a transmission box to convert the cable motion to rotational motion to generate electrical power to charge a battery. Design limitations include low power output; low durability of the modified shoes, and the user’s range of motion is limited.

One of the photos in Joe’s analysis.



Atmospheric physics


Heather Graffius—Kelvin’s thunderstorm and the breakdown potential of air. My device uses two streams of water falling through the air to produce static discharges similar to lightning in a thunderstorm. I measured spark rate for different spark gaps as a function of water flow rate. I used my results to calculate the breakdown of the electric field of air. Heather is studying for an M.S. in Atmospheric Physics at Creighton University.


Civil engineering


clip_image024Jason Jackson—Hydroelectric turbine efficiency. I investigated the idea of improving the efficiency of a hydroelectric generator system by placing additional turbines in series to capture energy from the water that the previous turbine did not capture. I found that each successive turbine generates less power, so that the investment in the first turbine is most cost effective. Jason is studying for an M.S. in Civil Engineering at WVU.



Thomas Bartleman—Efficiency of a scale model oscillating water column. Water wave energy is one of the most underutilized forms of renewable energy. One design is called the oscillating water column, in which waves enter a tube, causing pressure oscillations that rive a turbine. My scale model used a motor to produces waves. Input variables included motor power, wave height, wave frequency, equilibrium water depth, and wave pressure. I measured the effect of each of these on output power. Tom is working toward an M.S. in Civil Engineering at Stanford University.





Scott Roberts—Organic photo-voltaics. I investigated the efficiency of new organic photovoltaic technology with different doping. I also investigated the effect on efficiency of thin film silicon photovoltaics after irradiation by a femtosecond laser.





Wesley Hughes—Raman spectroscopy of polymers. When a laser encounters a material, the scattered wavelength has a different wavelength that the incident wavelength, an observation called the Raman effect. Raman measurements give information on the material’s molecular bonding. I used a nitrogen laser and a Nd:Yag laser to make Raman spectroscopy studies of four polymers: high-density polyethylene, polyhexamethylene adiptimide, polytetrafluorethylene, and polyamide-imide.





Petroleum and

Natural Gas


Denny Vincent—The flow of fracking fluid through geological formations. Denny’s objective was to determine the rate water flowed through a horizontal cross section of clear PVC pipe that simulated flow in the Marcellus shale geological formation. Denny applied the Navier-Stokes equation to simulate advanced drilling conditions in the petroleum industry. Denny is a natural gas field engineer at Weatherford.













Matthew Edwards—Non-lethal kinetic ammunition. My study involved projectiles from firearms designed to incapacitate a person without causing permanent damage. I evaluated baton rounds, beanbags, fin stabilized rubber projectiles, multi-ball rounds, and sponge grenades. I made my target using ballistic gelatin and latex to simulation of human tissue and skin. I measured the impact velocity, acceleration, and impact area. If the latex was penetrated, I measured the penetration depth. I calculated the energy density, pressure, and the Blunt Criterion Rating. I was able to evaluate the lethality of each type of projectile when fired at distances of 5, 10, and 15 yards. 


Bobby Powell (2)Bobby Powell—Efficiency analysis of a compressed-air power system. The control system of a nuclear power plant requires electricity. In an emergency, the control system may require a backup source of electricity. I investigated compressed air as a source of energy for generating backup electricity. A backup system should have reasonably good energy efficiency, so I studied a compressed air power system’s efficiency as a function of air pressure. 


http://www.wvwc.edu/news/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/student-with-solar-pane-close-up-300x177.jpgCasey Defibaugh— Efficiency of an air conditioning system powered by a solar panel. Solar panels convert free energy from the Sun into electrical energy with no greenhouse gases. Recent developments have made solar panels more economically competitive. I measured the energy losses in a system consisting of a solar panel with backup batteries an air conditioner as a function of cooling rate.


Wes Marsh—Improving internal combustion efficiency using electrolysis. Electrolysis involves separating water into hydrogen and oxygen by using electrical current. Wes introduced the gases into a gasoline engine and measured the effect on thermodynamic efficiency.



Medical physics


http://www.wvwc.edu/news/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/DSC_0037-e1301428580698-199x300.jpgKate Turner—Production of copper-61 using a proton-induced nuclear reaction on zinc for PET imaging. To produce the protons to induce this reaction, I placed paraffin blocks over the opening of an americium/beryllium neutron source. The bombardment of neutrons on hydrogen-rich paraffin produces a nuclear reaction that produces protons. The protons are then irradiated onto a zinc foil. A gamma detector and a silicon surface-barrier detector are interfaced to Spec-Tech software to record the copper-1 spectrum.


Chera Rogers—Thermal neutron absorption and fast neutron analysis. Chera studies neutron absorption by several materials using an americium-beryllium neutron source. She also studied fast neutron analysis using neutron-proton reaction. Chera is pursuing an M.S. in Medical Physics at the University of Cincinnati.


Jacob Wilson—Cell kill rates in HT1080 cancer cells irradiated with cesium-137. My objective was to use cesium-137 to induce chromosome breaking in cancer cells. Chromosome breaking occurs when a high energy particle encounters deoxyribonucleic acid and destroys the bonds that hold the chromosome together. I used the linear model of cell kill rate, which is applied to the fast-growing cells in tumors. I grew my cells in MEM and glutamate. I irradiated them for 2 hours at 6.86 rads. I used a centrifuge to isolate the cells and counted the number of chromosome breaks.


holtschneider 10Thomas Holtschneider—Boron neutron capture therapy. The ideal cancer treatment would destroy all turmor cells without damaging normal tissue. But real cancer therapy damages healthy tissue. Using boron capture therapy, damage to healthy tissues may be reduced. I irradiated boron carbine with neutrons from an americium-beryllium alpha source. I determined the energy of the neutrons produced and the stopping power.