Focus on new faculty: Franklin Miller
ssistant Professor Franklin Miller enjoys gardening, but the Virginia native is a little worried about adapting his hobby to the shorter growing season in Wisconsin. However, that doesn’t mean Miller isn’t a fan of the cold—in fact, he joined the UW-Madison faculty to research low-temperature cooling technologies.
After obtaining his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University, Miller studied the development of a superfluid Joule-Thomson refrigerator for cooling below 1 Kelvin, or -457.9 degrees Fahrenheit, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned his PhD in mechanical engineering in 2005 and joined NASA to work on cryogenics and fluids at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
His many projects at NASA included developing a magnetic cooler to cool an X-ray spectrometer for the Astro-H mission. He also did concept work for a possible mission to Venus. Though he enjoyed his time at NASA, Miller always knew he wanted to teach, and he is excited about the chance to do so at UW-Madison. Currently, he teaches ME 361: Thermodynamics. “It’s rewarding to see students learn,” he says.
Miller’s research will continue to focus on cooling technologies, and he is developing a system that could reach as low as 100 millikelvin, or -459.5 degrees Fahrenheit. His work could yield efficient cooling technologies for superconducting detectors capable of capturing faint traces of light. “Detectors have to be very cold in order to detect the small amount of heat a photon gives up when it is absorbed,” he says.
Miller also plans to warm things up a bit and develop coolers for detectors that operate at 35 Kelvin, or -396.67 degrees Fahrenheit. These technologies would have military applications, since Earth-based detectors don’t have to be as sensitive, and therefore as cold, as space science detectors. As an affiliate of the Solar Energy Lab, Miller will branch into a variety of thermodynamics projects and higher temperature technologies—an opportunity he welcomes. “One of the advantages of coming here is the chance to work on projects with a wide range of applications,” he says.
Miller also embraces cold temperatures outside of the lab and is an avid skier with his two sons.