Research Co-op Leads to Innovative Breakthrough for Math and Physics Major Omesh Dhar Dwivedi
By Gina Myers
October 04, 2021
The precursor to a new, innovative nanomaterial has been discovered by a team of researchers from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), who have proposed a step-by-step chemical pathway to creating boron nitride nanotubes (BNNT). The potential for this is great, as it could lead to large-scale industrial production for a variety of uses.
As reported at Phys.org, “The nanomaterial—thousands of times thinner than a human hair, stronger than steel and noncombustible—could block radiation to astronauts and help shore up military vehicle armor,” among many other uses.
Among the authors cited in the study is math and physics major Omesh Dhar Dwivedi. The international student from Lucknow, India, contributed to the finding while working as a co-op student in the PPPL.
“Plasma physics is a very broad field. It includes studying nuclear fusion and other plasma processes,” explains Dwivedi. “There are applications to engineering. There are theoretical applications for understanding the universe, as well as applications to clean energy.”
In the lab, Dwivedi conducted research at the intersection of physics and chemistry, looking at nitrogen, the second-most inert element, meaning it does not react with other elements. However, through conducting simulations, Dwivedi and his team were able to see that colliding nitrogen with boron at high temperatures caused a reaction.
“People thought that it was impossible to break the nitrogen bond. We were able to see that if you have a small number of boron and nitrogen [atoms], it can react,” says Dwivedi. “That gave direction to a study where we did a bunch of different processes—making kinetic calculations and computational calculations—to understand how probable it is for them to react with smaller numbers. It basically means that there’s a possible mechanism of building these boron nitride nanotubes given the right conditions.”
After his first co-op, Dwivedi continued to work with the lab, and this year the group felt like they had enough to publish their findings.
“Nanotubes are a growing area, and right now it is all carbon nanotubes. Boron nitrogen nanotubes would give us another set of things to work with in all the applications nanotubes have,” he says.
The minuscule tubes are used in electronics as well as textiles, with additional applications for transportation, aerospace, construction, mining and many other industries.
In addition to his work in the lab, Dwivedi has also been very active on Drexel’s campus over the course of his time here. He founded the Drexel University Debate Union, and he is the vice president of the Chess Club and president of the Mathematics Student Organization. Following his freshman year, he researched the computational resources required for observational dark matter physics through bubble chambers as a STAR Scholar in the Pennoni Honors College. During his sophomore year, he studied abroad at the University of Hong Kong. He has also conducted research on Jacobi-Trudi Determinants in finite fields, and he works as a math tutor.
Dwivedi initially entered Drexel as a physics major who was interested in theoretical physics. Since theoretical physics relies heavily on mathematical models and abstractions, he decided to take more math classes and found himself increasingly interested in the field, so he decided to double major.
“[Double majoring] can be challenging. It depends on your plan and what you are studying,” says Dwivedi. “With math, there are hard requirements of certain courses, but then there’s a lot of freedom in other courses.”
Following graduation this spring, Dwivedi plans to attend graduate school in math, obtain his doctorate and eventually work in academia.
He reflects on his time at Drexel, “I’ve gained a community of people and have had experiences that I wouldn’t have had some other place. There were many positives about my time at Drexel and especially in Philly.”