Atomic and Molecular Dynamics - Experiment
From chemistry to medicine, from biology to new sources of clean energy—many future scientific advances hinge on our ability to harness the power of the quantum world. SLAC’s PULSE Institute is poised to lead the way in this cutting edge field of Atomic and Molecular Dynamics.
Understanding and controlling the behavior of individual atoms and molecules is a key to engineering revolutionary new materials. Meeting the world’s demand for energy, for example, will require new kinds of specialized materials made from molecules that can absorb a photon of sunlight and make it do work. Nature has solved this problem to meet the needs of living organisms, but today’s commercially available solar materials remain too inefficient or too expensive for large scale energy production.
The PULSE Institute is focused on understanding the design rules that dictate how molecules do work. In plants, photosynthesis occurs when a photon of sunlight starts a chain reaction that creates sugar and oxygen. It’s an incredibly efficient process with key initial steps happening extraordinarily fast—in a few billionths of a second. Using special optical lasers—and soon, the Linac Coherent Light Source, the world first hard X-ray free-electron laser—PULSE Institute Scientists are peering into the molecules themselves to see how such atomic events unfold.
Controlling the quantum world will revolutionize more than our search for cleaner energy. New quantum materials will also bring us powerful new electronics, and will expand our mastery of the biological world, perhaps even deliver new medicines, new therapies and new ways of thinking about how our bodies work on a molecular level.