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Washington State University Institute for Shock Physics


James Hawreliak

Associate Professor

Affiliate Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy

(509) 335-1901

Scientific Interests and Work

Studying the ultrafast response of materials in extreme conditions (High Energy Density Physics).

A high energy density state is defined as the energy density in a hydrogen molecule (~1011J/m3 = 1 million atmospheres of pressure).  It is at these conditions that the pressure exerted on a material rivals the internal forces at the molecular level and we observe changes in molecular organization and atomic arrangement (material phase transitions).  Understanding these states is important for building models of astrophysical conditions (Earth core is 3.5 million atmospheres of pressure, Jupiter core is 70 million atmospheres of pressure) and next generation energy research.  Due to the extreme nature of these states, they are generally only produced transiently in laboratories either through shock waves or other forms of dynamic compression, making it a challenge to measure their material properties.

Dr. Hawreliak’s work focuses on making a range of material properties measurements (density, pressure, atomic structure) using an assortment of x-ray and optical techniques during dynamic compression.  We need to interoperate the laboratory results from the atomic length scale (shock thickness) up to 1000s of kilometers (supernova) for a better understanding of the complex and dynamic universe that surrounds us. The field of high energy density physics inspires me every day with new challenges and exciting new discoveries.


Dr. James Hawreliak came to the Institute for Shock Physics from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he worked for nine years on a series of projects studying high energy density states of matter.  The primary focus of Dr. Hawreliak’s research has been to develop unique capabilities that investigate the complexity of the small scale response of bulk material behavior.   These include in situ x-ray diffraction measurements of phase transitions in shock compressed iron and magnesium, defect structure in shock compressed copper, and the stress deviatory in shock compressed single crystal tantalum. His experimental experience spans a large spectrum of facilities including dynamic small angle scattering and phase contrast imaging experiments at APS, x-ray diffraction and coherent speckle experiments at the Linear Coherent Light Source (LCLS), x-ray diffraction and x-ray imaging experiments at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) and the National Ignition Facility (NIF).


Ph.D. (Physics), 2004, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
M.S. (Nuclear Engineering), 1998, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California
B.S. (Engineering Physics), 1996, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Representative Publications

  1. D. Tramontina, P. Erhart, T. Germann, James Hawreliak, A. Higginbotham, N. Park, R. Ravelo, A. Stukowski, M. Suggit, Y. Tang, J. S. Wark, E. Bringa (2014), “ Molecular dynamics simulations of shock-induced plasticity in tantalum”. High Energy Density Physics 10, 9–15.
  2. A.L. Kritchera, T. Döppner, D. Swift, James Hawreliak, G. Collins, J. Nilsen, B. Bachmann, E. Dewald, D. Strozzi, S. Felker, O.L. Landen, O. Jones, C. Thomas, J. Hammer, C. Keane, H.J. Lee, S.H. Glenzer, S. Rothman, D. Chapman, D. Kraus, P. Neumayer & R.W. Falcone (2014), “ Probing matter at Gbar pressures at the NIF”. High Energy Density Physics 10, 27–34.
  3. L. C. Jarrott, A. J. Kemp, L. Divol, D. Mariscal, B. Westover, C. McGuffey, F. N. Beg, M. Suggit, C. Chen, D. Hey, B. Maddox, James Hawreliak, H.S. Park, B. Remington, M. S. Wei & A. MacPhee (2014), “ K-alpha and bremsstrahlung x-ray radiation backlighter sources from short pulse laser driven silver targets as a function of laser pre-pulse energy”. Physics of Plasmas (1994-present) 21, 031211.
  4. Coppari, F., Smith, R., Eggert, J., Wang, J., Rygg, J., Lazicki, A., James Hawreliak, Collins, G., & Duffy, T. (2013), “ Experimental evidence for a phase transition in magnesium oxide at exoplanet pressures”. Nature Geoscience , .
  5. Higginbotham, A., Suggit, M., Bringa, E., Erhart, P., James Hawreliak, Mogni, G., Park, N., Remington, B., & Wark, J. (2013), “ Molecular dynamics simulations of shock-induced deformation twinning of a body-centered-cubic metal”. Physical Review B 88, 104105.
  6. A. J. Comley, B. R. Maddox, R. E. Rudd, S. T. Prisbrey, James Hawreliak, D. A. Orlikowski, S. C. Peterson, J. H. Satcher, A. J. Elsholz, H.S. Park, B. A. Remington, N. Bazin, J. M. Foster, P. Graham, N. Park, P. A. Rosen, S. R. Rothman, A. Higginbotham, M. Suggit, & J. S. Wark (2013), “ Strength of Shock-Loaded Single-Crystal Tantalum [100] Determined using In Situ Broadband X-Ray Laue Diffraction”. Physical Review Letters 110, 115501.