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Migliori’s Mysteries

by Kathy Chambers on Thu, January 12, 2017

Albert Migliori
Image credit: Los Alamos
National Laboratory

Condensed matter physicist Albert Migliori has been solving scientific mysteries for national security throughout his career.  Migliori is a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) fellow, the Director of the Seaborg Institute for Actinide Science, and a member of the Science Advisory Council at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.  He is best known for leading development of a technique called resonant ultrasound spectroscopy (RUS), a powerful tool that uses acoustic tones to determine important measurements in condensed matter physics, including superconductivity. 

Migliori recently wrote about his love of physics and fascinating career in an “In Their Own Words” column in LANL’s 1663 magazine.  Migliori grew up in the 1950s on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, where he learned to rewire lamps and fix everything as a young child.  He became interested in physics at a science magnet high school in New York City and received his B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois.  He became hooked on what he calls, “hard-core, hands-dirty experimental physics.” 

After completing his Ph.D., he took a postdoctoral fellow position at LANL because it seemed exciting, and he was right.  During his first decade at LANL, he worked with physicist John Wheatley on acoustic engines and got his start with acoustic methods.  Migliori then became involved in condensed matter physics research where he and his teammates initially developed RUS for thermodynamic studies of high-temperature superconductors.  They made enough progress on RUS that it became a useful ultrasound technique; building on successes in basic science, it became clear that RUS could also be applied to compelling mysteries in support of LANL’s national security mission.  RUS was found to be ideal for measuring plutonium; it successfully made the first accurate measure of the compressibility and shear stiffness of plutonium and was the only measurement able to track the aging of plutonium in real time.  Thanks to RUS, scientists are learning more about how plutonium alloys age and may also be close to a breakthrough in understanding the fundamental electronic structure of plutonium. 

Migliori was recently honored for developing the RUS technique with the 2016 Joseph F. Keithley Award for Advances in Measurement Science, the top instrumentation prize presented by the American Physical Society.  He said he could not have done the work leading to this without his teammates or without the fabulous scientific environment and challenges provided by LANL and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.  

RUS is one use of ultrasound technology discussed in William Watson’s latest white paper, “In the OSTI Collections: Infrasound and Ultrasound Research.”  Migliori’s patents, technical reports, and publications are available in DOE databases.  Additional DOE research results and related links of interest are available in this month’s Science Showcase: Infrasound and Ultrasound Research.

Page last updated on 2017-03-10 12:02

About the Author

Kathy Chambers's picture
Kathy Chambers
Technical Writer, Information International Associates, Inc.