Illinois Tech Physics Hosts 2018 APS/Illinois Tech XAFS Summer School

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The Department of Physics hosted the 2018 APS/Illinois Tech XAFS Summer School July 9–12 on the Mies Campus and at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS).

Grant Bunker, chair and professor of physics, and Carlo Segre, Duchossois Leadership Professor of Physics, co-organized and led the event, the eighth one since 2010.

XAFS (X-ray Absorption Fine Structure) spectroscopy is a versatile X-ray technique for determining precise structural information at the molecular level. In addition to crystals, it can be applied to amorphous solids, solutions, liquids, and gases. It is used in a variety of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, environmental science, materials science, and geology. In recent decades, the XAFS technique has grown in popularity in tandem with other types of synchrotron radiation research.

According to Bunker, XAFS is typically used in the design of new materials such as advanced battery electrodes, catalysts for chemical processing, semiconductors, glasses, and amorphous materials to understand how metallo-enzymes function and malfunction, and to characterize the chemical form of toxic elements in the environment and in biological tissues.

In all, 36 students participated in the 2018 summer school, most of them graduate students, postdocs, and working scientists from the United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and Denmark. The course covered theoretical, experimental, and data analytical methods of XAFS, with a hands-on sample preparation lab at Illinois Tech followed by measurements on seven X-ray beamlines at the APS. Students also had free time to explore Chicago’s cultural and other activities.

In addition to Bunker and Segre, instructors included:

  • Bruce Bunker, professor of physics, University of Notre Dame
  • Matt Newville, beamline scientist and research associate professor, University of Chicago
  • Steve Heald, senior physicist and group leader, spectroscopy, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Bhoopesh Mishra, university academic fellow, University of Leeds, UK, and research assistant professor of physics, Illinois Tech
  • Beamline scientists at sectors 5 (DND-CAT), 10 (MR-CAT), 13 (GSE-CARS), and 9, 12, and 20 (APS)

The APS User Office and Illinois Tech College of Science staff assisted preparations.

Bunker commented, “Personal comments and end-of-school surveys uniformly indicate the participants found the school very instructive, deepening their understanding of XAFS. Participants appreciated the comprehensive curriculum and practical hands-on orientation, and found it to be an enjoyable and memorable experience, all of which are results we try hard to achieve. It’s the results and student responses that make the effort worthwhile, and it’s good for IIT.”

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