The U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $4.5 million grant to Georgetown University physics professor James Freericks and a team of academics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to research how X-rays can be used in solids, according to a Sept. 13 news release.
The study will focus on the Linac Coherent Light Source, a machine at Stanford that delivers powerful and quick x-ray pulses. The machine is currently under development and will ideally be functional within the next two years, according to the news release.
“I have been working in this general field for over a decade,” Freericks wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But this work takes me much more directly into experiments with X-rays which I have less experience with.”
Because of the relatively new nature of the field, little is known about how the continued quantum systems will respond to the experimental choices the researchers make, Freericks said. Machines like the LCLS are just now enabling research on this to occur.
The technology will allow the research team to study how X-rays can be used in solids, Freericks said.
“The simplest analogy is to think of hitting a matXRAYSerial with a really big hammer and then watching how it changes at distinct times afterwards,” Freericks wrote. “They allow us to measure how materials change their energy by exchanging it … after they have been highly excited. These types of require everything to be done really, really fast. This has only become possible recently with machines like LCLS being built.”
A portion of the grant funds will be used to fund a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow to work in Freericks’s lab for the next three years.
Freericks is slated to be the team’s theorist and will be responsible for putting the theory behind the experiments into practice.
Freericks is also on teams for two other projects that recently earned grants from the Department of Energy to study quantum computing, a field that “represents the next frontier in the Information Age,” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a DOE press release.
Freericks’ other DOE-funded project supports research to provide faster quantum algorithms, which can help explain how electrons move. Georgetown will receive $500,000 of the four-year, $8 million grant to help fund a graduate student working in the lab.
“[Freericks] is one of the world’s experts in developing theory for describing these types of novel and important experiments,” professor Jeffrey Urbach, chair of the physics department, wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This funding will support extending that work into a new area where the experiments are using X-rays as the probes.”
The LCLS X-ray research has important implications for everyday life, Freericks said. Many of the electronics people use in their daily lives operate based on the nonequilibrium effects that he and other researches study, he said.
“It’s a great example of the kind of thing that can happen when Georgetown scientists team up with leading researchers from other top institutions,” Urbach wrote.