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David Fryauf: Graduate Student

What did you study at UC Santa Cruz?

I worked on devices called thermoelectrics that were powered by material known as nanowires, which are tiny wires, like 50 times smaller than our hair. The devices themselves didn’t work very well, but I found myself using a technique called atomic layer deposition (ALD), and I found all kinds of other cool things to do with ALD. I’m working with astronomers at UC Santa Cruz to help coat their silver telescope mirrors that tarnish and corrode in earth’s environment. Silver’s native oxide is silver sulfite and it’s black. Contrary to the Netflix show, a black mirror is not very useful in astronomy. So, to keep the mirrors from turning black, you have to protect the silver but the more layers you put on it, the less light reflects off of it, so you want to make the protective layer as thin as possible. The ALD technique is really good because it deposits super thin, really precise, conformal layers all over everything you put in the chamber and it does it really well and very consistently. So if there are any defects or errors on the silver of the mirror, it gets in there and covers that, whereas traditional methods might not and might leave pinholes, or little spots where gas can get in. We’re trying the best barrier that is the toughest and the most transparent so that the silver below can still reflect the light.


Doing this particular research works really well here because firstly, we’ve got a great astronomy program that makes stuff like real coatings for real astronomical optics. That’s the logistical answer, but I like to think that the astronomers are such a small niche market and there’s only a few projects in the world that are making these ridiculously large pieces of glass to make mirrors out of them. They’re so big and so expensive and nobody else needs them except for these astronomers who are spending a lot of money on the glass and to coat them, etc. They’re specialized and nobody else is going to invest in the technology that it takes to make their coating the best. The astronomers pursue knowledge about the stars purely for knowledge, which seems noble. It’s awesome that I get to have a project with a similar philosophical framework for usefulness in our lives because it’s really not going to be super useful for anyone except them. The specific solution that we come up with is going to be specific to only them and only to help us find out more about stars that are billions of miles away that we’ll never see. I think this is the right place for that because people here are genuine in their passionate pursuit of knowledge. UC Santa Cruz has a great reputation of working on things that people are truly passionate about. I like that. The astronomers do that well and now I get to help the astronomers do that well. It’s less competitive and therefore less profitable, but it’s just more of a beautiful pursuit of knowledge.

What do you like to do for fun?

I like to ride my bike, not so much for fun, but I love having to ride my bike to go places because it’s dangerous and I get to break the rules and I’m faster than traffic. I love flying through traffic. I also play music. I drum in a band called the Knudsens and we technically just broke up because a couple of the guys are leaving town because they’ve graduated. We’ve played at a few places around town and it’s all just a lot of fun.

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Degree Program: 
Ph.D., Electrical Engineering
Place of Birth: 
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Undergraduate Institution: 
University of Arkansas
Graduate Institution: 
UC Santa Cruz
Nobuhiko Kobayashi