Evan John MustermanEvan John Musterman (pictured), a doctoral student in materials science and engineering, is one of 80 outstanding students to receive a grant through the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program, a highly competitive award funded by the Department of Energy.

Since June 2022, Musterman has been at Brookhaven National Laboratory, advancing his research at the forefront of laser-fabricated single-crystal architecture in glass. At Lehigh, Musterman works with advisors Himanshu Jain (materials science and engineering) and Volkmar Dierolf (physics, College of Arts and Sciences), making his work a truly interdisciplinary collaboration.

“I’m thrilled to be in residence at Brookhaven to advance a key area of fundamental importance to crystallization, which is to better understand the structural transformation of the glass phase preceding crystal formation,” says Musterman, who will spend a total of nine months at the national lab.

The focus of Musterman’s PhD work has been growing single crystals on the surface of glass via laser-generated heat. These crystals, because of their special properties, have the potential to be engineered for all kinds of desirable uses, most notably in optical, photonic, and quantum applications. Before that can happen, scientists need an understanding of just when or where the glass transforms into a crystal.

“It’s a stochastic, random process,” says Musterman. “At Brookhaven, I will work on a new method of studying how glass transforms just before crystallization.”

It’s a difficult challenge, he says. Musterman will be utilizing the state-of-the-art synchrotron-based imaging and spectroscopy capability at the National Synchrotron Light Source II within Brookhaven. Adding a laser to a beamline capable of measuring extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) with sub-micron resolution, he hopes to be able to characterize local glass structure before crystallization.

Brookhaven National Laboratory“The idea is to be able to locally control where the crystal is going to form and locally probe the structure of the glass and the crystal at the same time,” says Musterman.

Speaking to the significance of potential applications, Jain says: “Microelectronic integrated circuits and optical telecom technologies have revolutionized our lives. Imagine the impact if these two are combined into one ‘optical chip with photonic integrated circuits.’ It’s a daunting task and it will require a multidisciplinary effort starting with the fabrication of 3D architecture of active optical waveguides within a glass.”

Musterman is the embodiment of Lehigh’s innovative Pasteur Partners PhD (P3) program, says Jain. P3 is a new track of doctoral training that provides students with experience in problem-solving in real-world environments, such as at a company or national lab.

“I can’t wait to learn from his findings,” Jain says.

Lower photo courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory