Ab Initio X-ray Physics

Subgroup leader: Dr. Sang-Kil Son

The subgroup working in the area of Ab Initio X-ray Physics focuses on the microscopic, quantum-mechanical characterization of the interaction of x rays with atoms and molecules. “Ab Initio” means that the theoretical description employed is based on first principles, i.e., fundamental natural laws. The information obtained in our research is important for maximizing the utility of novel radiation sources such as x-ray free-electron lasers. Of central interest to us is the exploration of novel techniques made possible by the extremely short pulse duration, and the extremely high intensity, offered by X-ray free-electron lasers. We are exploring, for instance, whether such pulses can be employed to directly watch the behavior of molecules in strong optical laser fields. A goal of this research is to find out whether it is generally possible to use strong optical lasers as catalysts of chemical reactions. We are also exploring opportunities for directly observing and manipulating the motion of electrons in matter. Since electrons provide the glue that binds atoms together to form molecules, the ability to control electrons in matter could have revolutionary consequences for applications.