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Emeritus Faculty

Beth Opila

R. Edward Barker, Jr.

Professor Emeritus

Ph.D. Physics; University of Alabama
M.S. Physics; University of Alabama
B.S. Physics; University of Alabama

Department of Materials Science & Engineering
University of Virginia
PO Box 400745
395 McCormick Road
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4745

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Education & Biolography


Edward Barker has been a member of the UVA faculty since 1967. For 34 years he was in charge of the polymer physics laboratory and the dielectric materials laboratory. He also was the chairman of the undergraduate Engineering Science Program for several years. Prof. Barker specializes in polymer physics, insulation science, and certain areas of statistical thermodynamics and thermally activated irreversible rate processes. His research has included investigations of thermal and radiation damage in polymers.

Barker received the BS, MS, and Ph. D. degrees, all in physics with mathematics minors, from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. His MS research involved the assembly and use of optical/mechanical equipment to apply the Obreimov optical interference technique to measure the surface energy of freshly cleaved mica in vacuuo and in several gas atmospheres. A different analytical approach revealed a factor of four error in the original theory by Obreimov. Barker’s Ph. D. research entailed the use of electron spin resonance and optical spectroscopy to investigate radiation damage and other phenomena in polymeric materials.

His major research advisors were Arthur E. Ruark , Carl Sartain , and William G. Moulton. Barker has over forty years of professional experience in academic, governmental, and industrial positions and consulting arrangements.

Prior to becoming a faculty member at the University of Virginia he was a Research Physicist at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady, where the main research assignments were in the Polymer and Interface Studies Section and in the Dielectrics Group. Earlier experience included positions as Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Alabama, Physicist GS-7 at the Navy Mine Countermeasures Station in Florida, and Research Scientist at Hayes Aircraft Corp. in Birmingham. Since joining SEAS some summers were spent as a Visiting Scientist/Consultant at the Xerox Research Center in Webster, NY.

Barker’s relevant experience also includes having taught and often developed courses at the graduate (G) and undergraduate (U) levels on a variety of subjects including: Materials Science (G, U), PolymerScience (G, U), Insulation Science (G), Electrical Science (U), Atomic Spectra (G), Engineering Physics(U), Engineering Thermodynamics (U), Thermodynamics of Solids (G), Phase Transitions and Kinetics of Materials (U), and several others.

Barker is the author or co-author of approximately 100 papers and technical reports including the editorship of two books. He holds two patents.

Research Interests & Accomplishments


Developed optical and fluid mechanical techniques to study the degradation in performance for General Electrics Talaria projection television system due to electron beam damage to the memory storage material which was a composite polymeric fluid.

Discovery of the oxidative bleaching of irradiation induced free radical color centers in polymers and exploitation of the effect to study diffusion as a function of temperature, gas pressure, tensile and compressive stress by the use of strain induced photoelasticity. Developed simplified mathematical models to explain and quantify the important distinction between moving diffusion boundaries in polymers with and without diffusate swelling.

Extensive experimental investigation involving measurements of ionic conductivity, dielectric permittivity, moisture sorption and diffusion for various classes of polymer membranes. These studies led to the Barker-Sharbaugh weak electrolyte model for ionic conduction in polymers and liquid dielectrics. The model is relevant to fuel cell membranes and high energy density capacitors.

Experimental and theoretical research for the US Airforce involving charge and mass transport and time domain dielectric spectroscopy for extended chain polymers. This work led to the development of a much more detailed theory based on the weak electrolyte model but now applicable to anisotropic conductivity and permittivity and being more explicitly related to molecular superstrucure. The more general version of the theory also includes the case of highly stretched membranes and includes the effects of temperature, tension, compression, and sorption of polar substances.

Pioneer experimental and theoretical investigations of the effects of hydrostatic pressure on the thermal conductivity of polymer membranes and the molecular interpretation . Also measurements of anisotropic thermal conductivity tensor in oriented membranes.

Utilization of mass spectrometer and several other methods to measure the sorption, permeation, and diffusion of small molecules through a wide variety of molecularly related membranes subjected to different states of elastic and plastic strain.

Barker’s most significant contribution is the development and experimental confirmation, with the aid of several of his graduate students, of the Entropy Correlation Theory (ECT). This theory is an extension of classical statistical thermodynamics to cover a broad class of thermally activated rate processes and is based on Barker’s discovery of an unexpected functional correlation between a rate process’ activation entropy and the difference in the configurational entropies of the different states of molecular organization which influence the rate process. The ECT has been useful in explaining certain important aspects of diffusion and permeation in oriented polymer membranes and offers promise for application to other situations where there is a kinetic transformation between different states of molecular order or disorder.

Development of an expanded version of nucleation and growth theories to explain the dependence or polarization switching times in ferroelectric polymer membranes. Coincidental improvements to classical nucleation theory.

Many other contributions: e.g., studies for Xerox Corp. related to charge transfer on multiple collision between quasi-insulating particles; several different microscopic, spectroscopic, and mechanical techniques to ascertain surface damage to polymers by ultraviolet, electron, and gamma irradiation; development of theories to relate parameters such as elastic modulus and Poisson’s ratio to thermal expansivity and other thermodynamic properties and to molecular characteristics (e.g., intermolecular potential functions) ; The use of time domain techniques (impedance spectroscopy) to measure dielectric properties up to the GHz range.

Publication of a series of theoretical papers which interrelated the macroscopic elastic and thermal properties of solid polymers to characteristics of the molecular structure and order, by means of statistical thermodynamical concepts such as Gruneisen parameters and correlated coefficients in intermolecular potential functions.

Professional Affiliations & Activities


Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS)

(Several Divisions Including: Polymer Physics, Condensed Matter, Chemical Physics, ...)

Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), ( Member of the regional board of directors, education advisor)

American Chemical Society (ACS) (Divisions: Polymer Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, ...)

American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

(IEEE- Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (CEIDP). Active member for. more than three decades, at different times serving in various official positions, including: multipleterms as a member of the Conference Board, several years on the Technical Advisory Committeeand three as its Chairman, over 25 years on the Dielectrics Digest Committee and four as itsChairman.) ((IEEE-Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society (DEIS). Active member for several years, served since 1999 as Chair of the Multifactor Aging (of insulation) Committee.)Virginia Academy of Science (VAS) ( Member since 1967, several terms as an officer in the Materials Science Section and serving since 1998 as its Representative to the VAS Council, alsoChair of the Best Paper by a Student Committee for more than a decade.) Honor Societies: Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics), Pi Mu Epsilon (Math), Sigma Xi (Science), Tau Beta Pi (Engineering)