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Dr Michael Jack

Senior Lecturer

Photo of Dr Michael Jack.

Location
Room 413
Phone numbers
7753 (Office)
64 3 479 7753 (Office Direct Dial)
Email
michael.jack@otago.ac.nz
Research Group
http://www.physics.otago.ac.nz/research/epg

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Biography

My undergraduate studies were undertaken at the University of Canterbury and my postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland. From 2000 to 2005 I held postdoctoral positions at Hiroshima University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, NTT Basic Research Laboratories (Tokyo, Japan) and Rice University (Houston, USA). I then held a range of positions at the New Zealand Crown Research Institute Scion until 2014, including Science Leader of Clean Technologies, after which I joined the Department as a Senior lecturer.


Research

My current research has two areas of focus.

Sustainable energy physics

Driven by global resource depletion and environmental concerns there is an enormous international drive to create and implement new sustainable energy technology solutions. My research focuses on applying the fundamental physical laws of thermodynamics to analyse and design new technologies to efficiently utilize renewable energy resources. Thermodynamics governs how energy is converted from one form to another and therefore provides deep insights into the limits of what is physically possible. It can also be used to identify opportunities for improvement and, due to its fundamental nature, can also lead to very novel technology concepts. A particular area of focus has been technologies for producing fuels (or biofuels) and other forms of energy from renewable biomass.

Nonequilibrium statistical mechanics of molecular motors

A possible source of inspiration for fundamentally new energy technologies is biological systems. For example, specialized proteins inside the cell act like molecular scale motors to convert chemical energy into mechanical work at efficiencies far exceeding current man-made technologies. Molecular motors or motor proteins are of enormous interest in both the biological and physical sciences as they have important implications for biological energy use and are an excellent example of a far-from-equilibrium system. My research focuses on developing nonequilibrium statistical mechanics theories of these molecular motors. This is a challenging area of theoretical physics research due to the dominance of random thermal fluctuations at this scale and the highly non-equilibrium nature of these systems. One particular aspect of this research involves applying mathematical techniques developed in quantum mechanics to solve the equations of motion of these molecular machines.

Find out more about my research.