The University of Rochester has received $12.96 million in federal funds to create a new Physics Frontier Center in Rochester, New York lawmakers announced Friday.
By Victoria E. Freile
The center — to be called the University of Rochester’s Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures — is part of a multi-university initiative to better understand “revolutionary states of matter.”
The funding is part of a five-year cooperative agreement between the University of Rochester and the National Science Foundation.
“The Physics Frontiers Centers program supports creative and interdisciplinary work at the frontiers of physics,” said Jean Cottam Allen, the NSF program officer overseeing the centers. “Researchers at the Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures are investigating a new frontier of matter at extreme pressures.”
More on the lab
Specifically, the effort will focus on understanding the physics and astrophysical implications of matter under pressures so high that the structure of individual atoms is disrupted, U.S. Sen Charles Schumer, D-NY, said in a news release.
“This effort will help discover the nature of planets and stars throughout the universe, as well as the potential for new revolutionary states of matter here on Earth,” said principal investigator Gilbert “Rip” Collins, a UR professor of mechanical engineering, physics and astronomy, and the associate director of science, technology and academics at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at Rochester.
The federal funding will also establish the University of Rochester as a pioneer in the field of high-energy-density science, as this is the first major initiative from NSF to fund research in the field.
The initiative is a multi-university collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, the Universities Of California at Berkeley and Davis, the University at Buffalo and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The creation of this new center will integrate UR into a network of Physics Frontier Centers, funded by NSF, and “will ensure Rochester will help lead the country in the field of high-energy-density science,” said Schumer.
“The world-class scientists at the University of Rochester produce ground-breaking discoveries that help advance our knowledge of the sciences, and this new federal funding will allow the university to continue that important work,” U.S. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, said in a news release. “The Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures is a pioneer institution that will prepare university students for their future as leaders in the scientific workforce.
What will they do?
UR’s Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures will bring together a diverse group of scientists who specialize in plasma physics, condensed matter, atomic physics, astrophysics and planetary science, to study matter under extreme conditions.
Research conducted will help scientists understand and address critical gaps in understanding of the atomic and chemical constituents of the universe. Collins said that CMAP will concentrate on four main areas of research:
How hydrogen and helium behave at extraordinary densities in the “gas giant” planets in our solar system. This helps scientists understand how the solar system evolved, Collins said.
How other elements react at high densities, to understand the nature of terrestrial and water worlds in the universe, and how materials might be manipulated in laboratories on Earth to “harness revolutionary properties.”
The pathways of energy transport that enable the dramatic change in properties and the energy balance of matter at extreme pressures. This will further explore the evolution of planets and stars throughout the universe.
The direct astrophysical implications of extreme matter properties—linking laboratory exploration of matter at atomic pressure with state-of-the-art models of astrophysical objects to better understand astronomical observations.
The center will also contain educational and outreach efforts to help teachers and students understand the research conducted.
“Establishing this new center in Rochester will support local jobs and enable UR researchers to make discoveries in cutting edge physics while bolstering our nation’s scientific workforce to keep the U.S. as a global leader in new scientific advances,” Schumer said in a news release.
He said the funding “will keep the University of Rochester at the forefront of cutting-edge scientific innovation.”