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Washington State University Institute for Shock Physics


Understanding Materials at Extreme Conditions

The Institute for Shock Physics (ISP) at Washington State University (WSU) is a DOE/NNSA “Center of Excellence” and multi-disciplinary research organization with a strong focus on understanding condensed matter response at extreme conditions.

WSU (as the lead institution) and three outstanding academic partners – Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, and Stanford University – conduct substantive research leading to advances/innovations in the field of Dynamic Compression Science. Multidisciplinary research activities, involving students, postdocs, and faculty members from different academic disciplines at the four participating institutions, comprehensively address the exciting scientific challenges. In addition, meaningful and mutually beneficial collaborations with scientists are undertaken at the NNSA Laboratories: Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia.

WSU is a leader in shock wave and high pressure research. The research activities, supported by the DOE/NNSA and other federal agencies, involve examining and understanding physical and chemical changes in solids and liquids under very rapid and large compressions. Using state-of-the-art experimental and computational capabilities, world-class faculty at the ISP conduct interdisciplinary research spanning the fields of physics, chemistry, materials science, solid mechanics, planetary sciences, and applied mathematics. Graduate students and faculty from various academic departments participate in the research activities.

What is shock wave and high pressure research?

Shock wave and static high pressure experiments, using innovative measurement capabilities, allow researchers to examine condensed matter states at extreme compressions and temperatures. Understanding condensed matter response at conditions relevant to dynamic loading (shock wave or shockless compression) and static high pressure has been central to advances in fundamental science and modern technology.

Dynamic and static high pressures exist in many natural and man-made environments. For example, naturally occurring high pressure and high temperature phenomena arise in meteorite impacts and in planetary interiors. Examples of man-made high pressures include space and national security related applications, including studies for improved armor and understanding of detonations for safe and improved use of energetic materials. Other applications include semiconductor research related to understanding the role of strains in layered devices used in electronics and optoelectronics, materials synthesis, and remediation of contaminated soils.