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Phonons & Reindeer Dr. Miguel Muñoz Rojo's experience at Eurotherm - a biennial conference on electro-thermal transport phenomena.

The below is a blog entry of SystemX Alliance Newsletters (Stanford University). The blog entry was written by Ananth Yalamarthy, and Prof. Eric Pop from Stanford university. 

The month of December tends to evoke festive memories, not scientific conferences. But, what if the conference were near the home of Santa Claus, in a ski resort with near-complete polar darkness?

This past December, Ananth Yalamarthy (ME, Prof. Debbie Senesky’s group), Prof. Eric Pop (EE), and Dr. Miguel Muñoz Rojo (EE) (pictured above) attended Eurotherm, a biennial conference on electro-thermal transport phenomena, in Levi, a small town about 100 miles north of the Arctic circle in Finland. The juxtaposition of the dark landscape and the bright sessions made for lively discussion between the 200 attendees and a close sense of camaraderie, reinforced on the snowy slopes. Conference topics ranged from fundamentals of heat (phonon) flow in solids, to advances in thermal metrology and near-field radiative heat transfer, to applications including resistive memory and thermal energy harvesting. For example, Prof. Eli Zeldov (Weizmann Institute, Israel) described a new thermal sensing technique using superconductors, with spatial resolution of ~10s of nm and sensitivity down to the Landauer limit. Our Stanford team contributed to the discussion on thermal data storage (Prof. Pop’s keynote), sensing by Scanning Thermal Microscopy (Miguel), and thermoelectric effects in wide band gap materials (Ananth).

Visiting Lapland in December also means a chance to glimpse the aurora borealis, which Ananth and Miguel caught on a lucky midnight with clear skies. These lights arise from solar radiation, whose energetic particles zip down to lower altitudes and knock electrons out of the atoms in the atmosphere, leaving behind an eerie glow. Conference meals featured many dishes based on reindeer, including reindeer tapas, reindeer burgers, reindeer meatballs, and the “Rudolph” pizza. Many other activities, including the traditional Finnish sauna experience, Sámi joiking, and sledding or skiing under the pitch-black afternoon sky, made the Eurotherm conference a truly memorable event.