PULLMAN, Wash. — The U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration has approved an $18 million, five-year extension to a grant to Washington State University’s Institute for Shock Physics. The initial $10 million grant, made in 1997, established the Institute as a part of the DOE’s strategic investment in selected scientific disciplines important to science-based stockpile stewardship.

According to physics professor and Institute Director Yogendra Gupta, the grant will permit the Institute to continue to be a national resource in shock compression science and to build on and enhance the foundation laid during the past five years. “Continuing support of the Institute ensures that one of the core disciplines of the nation’s Stockpile Stewardship Program will remain strong,” said Gupta, “both in terms of research innovations and in terms of having well trained scientists available in years to come.

“I am very grateful for the Department of Energy’s continuing and expanded support of our research activities. All of us in the Institute will strive hard to justify the confidence that the DOE and the University have placed in us. Renewal of our DOE grant and the new building represent strong and tangible commitments at the federal and state levels for the shock physics program at WSU. We will continue our emphases on scientific innovations, on tackling hard problems, and on high quality education of graduate students and postdoctoral research associates,” Gupta said.

WSU’s Institute for Shock Physics is a multi-disciplinary research organization within the College of Sciences. Shock physics, or shock wave research, involves understanding the physical and chemical changes in solids and liquids under very rapid and large compressions, and applying this knowledge to fundamental and applied problems of interest.

Among the Institute’s most notable accomplishments, in addition to training an outstanding group of scientists who have gone on to become leaders in the field, is the unique capability to examine materials at a broad range of length scales. The Institute provides state-of-the-art experimental and computational facilities for studying physical and chemical phenomena over length scales ranging from atomic to macroscopic dimensions and time scales ranging from picoseconds to microseconds. Unique research capabilities include the study of fast phase transformations using picosecond spectroscopy; use of time-resolved x-ray diffraction to connect atomic displacements with macroscopic measurements of structural phase transitions; and a very recent study on time-dependent freezing of water, which demonstrated for the first time that water can freeze in less than one hundred billionths of a second.

In addition to offering research opportunities to WSU faculty, undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral associates in physics, chemistry, materials science and mechanics, the Institute is committed to strong research partnerships with scientists at the DOE laboratories and other educational institutions. Individuals conducting research at the ISP include 18 scientific and technical staff members, 10 graduate students, several undergraduates and four members from other departments. Several new research staff members will be added later this year.

“Washington State University is encouraging its faculty members to think big about the potential for their research and scholarship, and Dr. Gupta’s efforts in establishing and building the federally funded Shock Physics Institute provide an excellent example of what is possible,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. “Dr. Gupta’s accomplishments have double meaning for the university as he is not only one of our world class faculty, he is also a doctoral graduate of WSU. The work of Dr. Gupta and his colleagues in the Shock Physics Institute is burnishing our already strong reputation in the field of shock wave research that was pioneered here at WSU.”

Gupta joined the physics department at WSU in 1981 and has significantly expanded the shock wave research activities pioneered by George Duvall and others in the physics department in the 1960s. Last October, Dr. James Asay joined the Institute as a professor and associate director, after a distinguished career at Sandia National Laboratories. Besides defense-related research, shock wave science is relevant to many other major industries in the nation including environmental remediation, development of novel materials, and propulsion of space vehicles.