Published August 17, 2020
UB chemistry and physics researcher Eva Zurek is a key partner in the Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures (CMAP), a new effort led by the University of Rochester to study matter under extreme pressures.
CMAP — a $12.96 million National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Physics Frontier Center — is hosted at the University of Rochester and is a collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Princeton University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Davis; UB; and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The effort “explores matter at pressures strong enough to change the nature of atoms themselves,” according to a description of the center in the NSF’s award database. “Such conditions have not been explored or exploited on Earth, yet they dominate the interiors of planets and stars. To date, thousands of planets have been discovered, providing numerous possible platforms for life throughout the universe. To understand the origin, evolution, and nature of these planets, one has to understand properties of high energy density matter at and beyond atomic pressures.”
“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,” says principal investigator Gilbert “Rip” Collins, the Tracy/Hyde Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics and Astronomy, and associate director of science, technology and academics at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) at the University of Rochester.
Zurek, professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, explains that most of the visible matter in the universe is subject to extreme conditions. “The properties of matter at these conditions control the evolution of planets and stars, but until recently, it was not possible to perform experiments or computations studying this regime,” she says. “Our work will do so, thereby helping to produce state-of-the-art, next-generation planetary models.”
Zurek — an expert in theoretical chemistry and condensed matter physics — specializes in areas including high-pressure and computational chemistry. Among other contributions, her team will carry out calculations that will help researchers gain an understanding of the structure of planetary constituents — the compounds that make up planets — at extreme pressures and temperatures.
Physics Frontiers Centers are university-based centers funded by the NSF to enable transformational advances in the most promising research areas.
The impetus for CMAP is twofold:
CMAP will lead discoveries at the confluence of these two movements in science. The center will combine powerful lasers, pulsed-power, and X-ray beam technology with first-principles theory and astrophysical interpretation concentrating on four main areas of fundamental research:
CMAP will also include educational efforts that focus on bringing high energy density science to students in a range of settings, from high schools to graduate schools.
Co-principal investigators are Sara Seager from MIT, Adam Burrows from Princeton, Raymond Jeanloz from UC Berkeley and Sarah Stewart from UC Davis.
Senior investigators include Zurek; Burkhard Militzer from UC Berkeley; Thomas Duffy from Princeton; Jon Eggert, Rick Kraus and Peter Celliers from Livermore National Laboratory; and Adam Frank, Pierre Gourdain, Eric Blackman, Ryan Rygg, Suxing Hu, Mohamed Zaghoo, Philip Nilson, Jessica Shang, Hussein Aluie and Miki Nakajima from the University of Rochester.