Have you heard about the only project DOE EPSCoR funded in New Mexico this year?
What could we discover with an instrument capable of recording, in minute detail, the movement of atoms during ultrafast chemical reactions?
This question is the driving force behind a recently awarded DOE EPSCoR State-National Laboratory Partnerships project titled, “Data-Science Enabled, Robust and Rapid MeV Ultrafast Electron Diffraction Instrument System to Characterize Materials Including for Quantum and Energy Applications” led by PI Dr. Sandra Biedron and co-PI Dr. Manel Martínez-Ramón from the University of New Mexico (UNM). The three-year, $750,000 award, supports UNM collaborations with three DOE laboratories (NM-based Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory) and seeks to enhance the mega-electron volt (MeV) ultrafast electron diffraction (MUED) instrument housed in the Brookhaven National Laboratory Accelerator Test Facility. This was the only DOE EPSCoR awarded to New Mexico for this specific solicitation.
The MeV MUED instrument, developed in 2008 – 2013, was the first of its kind in the world and essentially allows researchers to make molecular “movies” of ultrafast chemical reactions with enough detail to see the activities of individual atoms. It can, and has allowed for some incredible advancements in science (like this, this, and this) but the instrument itself could be more turn-key with additional automation - machine control and more streamlined retrieval and analysis of the materials data.
“In the simplest possible sense, the existing MUED is like the first generation of automobiles. They drove, but the effort required to start and operate them was significant,” Dr. Biedron explains, “as part of this project, we are hoping to bring the MUED ‘up to speed’ though data science. Using AI-based machine-learning methods to enhance operational capabilities and machine controls we will transform this metaphorical Model-T into a Porsche, with power steering and all! Well, electron and laser beam steering to be exact.”
Biedron went onto say “that the collegial partnership with the head of the EPSCoR programs at LANL – Dr. Alan Hurd – a materials physicist in the lab’s National Security Education Center made this proposal a reality.”
From his perspective, Dr. Hurd believes “It is difficult to quantify the scientific ground researchers will be able to cover with the data science-enhanced MUED, but the improvements developed by our team will help scientists investigate everything from rare-earth substitutes for high strength magnets to quantum materials to fundamental disease processes like viral entry into cells (e.g. pandemics).”
We are honored to welcome the entire team to the New Mexico EPSCoR family.