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Part of $4.5 Million DOE Grant Goes to Georgetown Physics Professor

September 13, 2018 – Physics professor James Freericks is part of a team that recently won a $4.5 million competitive research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Freericks will work with a team of physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory on how X-rays can be used in solids.

A portion of the grant will provide funding for a postdoctoral fellow and a graduate student to work in Freericks’ laboratory over the next three years.

The DOE grant funds some of the country’s leading experts on X-ray scattering to conduct research in preparation for the soon-to-be-upgraded Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). The machine, located at Stanford, produces the brightest source of ultrashort X-ray pulses for experiments in solid state materials and is expected to be functional in about two years.

“X-rays, because their wavelength is similar to the spatial separation between atoms in a solid, can be used to measure the positions of atoms, how they move, and can also examine how electrons reflect x-rays — similar to how a mirror reflects light,” Freericks said.

The work that will be conducted using the LCLS takes place at less than the time it takes light to travel across the thickness of one hair.

“These experiments allow us to take snapshots of the behavior of electrons as they are excited by a pump pulse, then measured with a probe pulse after some short time delay,” Freericks said. “One can then show the images one after another to create some of the world's shortest movies of quantum-mechanical behavior.”

“We’re hoping to break new ground in a number of different areas of X-ray science.”