APPH E4018 Site Information

Applied Physics Laboratory

Prof. Michael Mauel

General Textbook Grading Experiments Lab-TA Links


Welcome to the APPH E4018 Applied Physics Laboratory class information site.

APPH E4018y Applied Physics Laboratory 2 pts. Prerequisite: ELEN E3401 Electromagnetics or the equivalent. Typical experiments are in the areas of plasma physics, microwaves, laser applications, optical spectroscopy physics, and superconductivity.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to laboratory research in applied physics. Students plan and carry out experiments, analyze results, and prepare "journal-like" laboratory reports. Each report is expected to be clear, concise and quantitative.

Students work in teams of two or three, and perform four three-week research projects. Data and analysis can be developed and shared by all members of a research team, but each student must organize and write their lab reports independently.

The course is designed for fourth year undergraduate majors in Applied Physics and all first-year graduate students who plan to be involved with laboratory applied physics research. Students should have at least some understanding of electromagnetics, electronics, optics, and solid state physics. All applied physics undergraduate majors and graduate students should be well-prepared. If you are at all concerned about your level of preparation, come see me.


Textbooks are not required for this course. Two helpful texts are listed below, but they are entirely optional.

Lobban and Schefter, Successful Lab Reports (A Manual for Science Students), is a helpful reference for preparing your lab report.

Dunlap, Experimental Physics (Modern Methods), is a classical text on laboratory techniques, including a good introduction to vacuum physics and technology.

Both are still available on

Successful Lab Reports

Science students are expected to produce lab reports, but are rarely adequately instructed on how to write them. Aimed at undergraduate students, Successful Lab Reports bridges the gap between the many books about writing term papers and the advanced books about writing papers for publication in scientific journals, neither of which gives much information on writing science lab reports. The first part guides students through the structure as they write a first draft. The second part shows how to revise the report and polish science writing skills as the student continues to write science lab report

Paperback: 120 pages Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 28, 1992) Language: English

ISBN-10: 0521407419
ISBN-13: 978-0521407410



Experimental Physics

Designed for physics students treating the underlying basis for modern techniques and the devices used, this timely survey describes current experimental methods in a clear and accessible text. This up-to-date volume provides an essential part of undergraduate physics training; until now, students were often expected to learn many of these methods in the laboratory without proper introduction. The broad coverage of available techniques includes discussion of state-of-the-art electronic equipment, as well as such topics as discrete semiconductor devices, signal processing, thermometry, optical components, nuclear instrumentation, and x-ray diffraction methods. Professor Dunlap's text will serve not only as a complete introduction for majors but also as a reference work for technicians throughout a professional career. In addition to tutorial discussions presented, tables of numerical data and constants are included, further enhancing the book as a permanent reference.

Hardcover: 392 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
1 edition (October 27, 1988)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0195049497
ISBN-13: 978-0195049497


Grade Guide:

Your final grade will be determined entirely by the quality of your four laboratory reports.

  • Writing style and clarity 20%
  • Basic understanding of experiment, procedure, and goals: 25%
  • Data reduction and presentation 25%
  • Conclusions, analysis, & interpretation 30%

Generally, ≥ 90% is an A, ≥ 80% B, and ≥ 70% C. Your worst lab counts 16%, then 24%, 30%, and 30%.

Lab Report Outline:

Each lab report should have the structure of a published journal article in the applied sciences.


  • Are your main results summarized clearly and quantitatively?
  • Is the overall scope of your report comprehendable?


  • Are the relevant parts clearly labeled? (Confusing or unimportant parts removed?)
  • Can you accurately describe what these parts do for your experiment? How do they help you to reach your objective?


  • Are the goals of each measurement clearly defined?
  • Is the procedure understandable? Does it make sense?
  • Can the procedure actually accomplish the stated objectives? What are the experimental uncertainties?
  • Are unimportant details excluded?


  • Is the data presented clearly? Simple to understand? Effectively summarized?
  • Are mathematical steps used in data analysis explained or referenced?
  • Is the data presented so that the conclusions/objectives can be easily seen in the data?
  • Are graphics used whenever possible to present x vs. y data? (Tables should be used to present a collection of different data values.)


  • Did you reach your objectives? (How can you tell?)
  • Is the conclusion for each objective mentioned?
  • Are the conclusions simply stated so that they can be understood?

Here's some more helpful hints concerning your lab report.


This Web Site is a basic resource for APPH 4018. Whenever possible notes will be available for download in Adobe PDF formats.

A list of experiments are presented below. You and your lab partner need to select four of these three-week experiments and schedule them during available periods. The laboratory hours begin at 9:30 AM each day. Experiments usually require between 2 and 3 hours to complete.

Experiment Description


Vacuum Experiment

Using a mechanical pump and an oil diffusion pump (or a turbomolecular pump), the operation and pumping characteristics of those devices are studied. The experiment also makes use of several types of pressure measuring instrumentation commonly used in a research laboratory. This experiment is recommended before trying any of the Plasma Physics experiments since familiarity with diffusion pumped systems is required


Microwave Experiment

Student work with a low power (∼ 35 mW) x-band (8.2 to 12.4 GHz) reflex klystron and becomes familiar with its operation, frequency range, and the properties of microwaves in waveguides. If time permits, a microwave interferometer can be constructed and the index of refraction of various materials can be measured.


Schottky Diode Experiment

An N-type semiconductor that has been vacuum deposited with a thin layer of gold making a Schottky barrier diode. The characteristics of this diode can be measured as a well as semiconductor properties such as band gap energy, carrier mobility, and carrier concentration.


Inverse Z-Pinch Experiment

This is a pulsed plasma device which uses a capacitor discharge system at 10-15 kV. Experience is gained in the design and operation of high voltage, low-inductance switching systems. The plasma which is formed can be treated with the magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations and the propagation of an ionizing current sheet driven through a neutral gas by magnetic pressure is studied.


Langmuir Probes

(Basic Plasma Physics)

The student becomes familiar with the operation of a hot-filament plasma source which produces a low-density (∼ 1E10 cm-3) argon or helium plasma. Basic measurement schemes are used (Langmuir probes) to measure density and temperature of the plasma. If time permits, ionization rates and loss rates can be studied.

This experiment is a prerequisite for the Ion Acoustic Wave (Advanced Plasma Physics) and Microwave Interferometer experiments.


Ion Acoustic Waves

(Advanced Plasma Physics)

The propagation of ion acoustic waves in a plasma is studied experimentally. The waves are launched at various frequencies and detected some distance away. In this manner, the acoustic speed, dispersion, and damping of these waves are measured. If time permits, ion acoustic shock waves and their properties can be measured.


Microwave Interferometer

This experiments makes use of an advanced version of the plasma source used in the basic plasma physics experiment. Multiple magnetic cusps generated by permanent magnets confine the plasma and produce higher densities (~ 1E12 cm-3). This higher density makes possible electromagnetic wave propagation studies and inteferometer measurements of the plasma density using the equipment of the microwave experiment.

This experiment is allowed only for the ambitious student of plasma physics.

# 8


In this experiment, we will use sampled of the recently developed high temperature superconducting material (Yttrium-Barium-Copper-Oxide) at liquid nitrogen temperatures (∼ 77 deg K) to learn about low temperature instrumentation and the physics properties of superconductors. You will study the magnetic as well as the ohmic properties of the superconductors.


Gamma Ray Spectroscopy

The student gains experiment with nuclear measurement equipment such as scalers, scintillation detectors, photo multipliers, and multi-channel pulse height analyzers. This equipment is used to make an activation analysis of a material by first exposing it to neutrons, then measuring the energy spectrum of the gamma rays emitted by the activated material.


Optics Experiment

Several features of wave optics are investigated using a helium neon laser, including laser beam propagation. A photodiode is used to measure laser power, and beam profiling methods are used to follow the propagation of unfocused and focused laser beams. Fraunhofer diffraction, the properties of diffraction gratings, and ways to determine laser polarization are also studied.

Lab Session Schedule


Session 1

Session 2
Session 3
Session 4
Abed Balbaky
Max Roberts
Vacuum 1
Inverse Z-Pinch
Langmuir Probe
Microwave Interferometer
Mason Jiang
Patrick Byrne
Vacuum 2
Langmuir Probe
Ion Accoustic Wave
Schottky Diode
Erinc Tokluoglu
Xiang Zheng
Vacuum 1/2      


Lab Supervisor and TA

Jim Andrello <> is a research engineer from our HBT-EP Tokamak group who is maintaining our lab equipment, preparing the materials for each experiment before you arrive for your sessions, and supervises lab safety at all times. Jim is available for help and assistance, but always obey his instructions!

We are also lucky to have Bryan DeBono, an senior graduate student working with the HBT-EP Tokamak Research Group as our T.A. this year. Bryan will be available during some of our lab sessions, and he'll be a resource to help you prepare you lab reports. Please arrange contact vis email: Bryan Debono <>.

Applied Physics Laboratory Links

  • Dedicated to Jimmy Florakis, who served the Department for more than 30 years, as supervisor of the teaching laboratories of our Applied Physics and Medical Physics Programs, and nurtured our student in the safe and proper use of scientific apparatus. See photo-album.

Professor Michael E. Mauel
Department of Applied Physics
Columbia University

Go to Prof. Mauel's HomePage