The way electrons move within and between molecules, transferring energy as they go, plays an important role in many chemical and biological processes, such as the conversion of sunlight to energy in photosynthesis and solar cells. But the fastest steps in this energy transfer have eluded detection.
Menlo Park, Calif. — Researchers using the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a way to strip most of the electrons from xenon atoms, creating a “supercharged,” strongly positive state at energies previously thought too low.
Scientists have found a way to distort the atomic arrangement and change the magnetic properties of an important class of electronic materials with ultra-short pulses of terahertz (mid-infrared) laser light without heating the material up. While the achievement is currently of purely scientific interest, the researchers say this new approach control could ultimately lead to extremely fast, low-energy, non-volatile computer memory chips or data-switching devices.
If the excitement and enthusiasm of young scientists like Eric Verploegen could be pumped directly into the power grid, the world's energy problems could be solved tomorrow.
It can't, though. So Verploegen has made it his goal to channel his energy into looking for solutions the old-fashioned way – hard work, and lots of it.