Alexander F. Goncharov's analyzes materials under extreme conditions such as high pressure and temperature using optical spectroscopy and other techniques to understand how matter fundamentally changes, the chemical processes occurring deep within planets, including Earth, and to understand and develop new materials with potential applications to energy.

In one area Goncharov is pursuing the holy grail of materials science, whether hydrogen can exist in an electrically conducting  metallic state as predicted by theory. He is also interested in understanding the different phases materials undergo as they transition under different pressure and temperature conditions to shed light on how heat is conducted through the Earth. He also investigates different conditions under which superconductivity can be achieved. 

A superconducting material does not restrict electron movement, the essence of electricity. However, typically these materials have to be cooled below a very low, so-called, transition temperature, which often makes them impractical for widespread use. Goncharov was part of a team that found, for the first time that, in addition to chemical manipulation, the superconducting state can be induced by high pressure in so-called high-temperature superconductors, a potential boost to their eventual use.

Goncharov conducts his experiments using optical spectroscopy and advanced probes such as synchrotron micro-diffraction and Raman spectroscopy. Optical spectroscopy uses light to discern “fingerprints” of a sample’s chemistry.  Synchrotron micro-diffraction requires huge facilities that accelerate particles to convert energy to high-energy light beams, which is then broken up by a sample into a distinct pattern that tells researchers about many characteristics. Raman spectroscopy is used to observe features like the rotational and vibrational behavior of a material.  

Goncharove  received  a B.A. amd M.S. in physics from Moscow Institute for Physics and Technology in 1979 and a Ph. D. in physics from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1981. He was a research fellow at the Instituted of Crystallography, Academy of Science in Moscow from 1982 to 1989, and then a senior research scientist there from 1989 to 1993. He came to Carnegie as a fellow in 1993, became a senior research associate in 1995, then a senior research scientist in 1999. From 2002 to 2005 he was a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He rejoined Carnegie as a staff scientist in 2005. For more information see here

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March 13, 2019

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Unraveling the properties of fluid metallic hydrogen could help scientists unlock the mysteries of Jupiter’s formation and internal structure. Credit: Mark Meamber, LLNL.
August 15, 2018

Washington, DC—Lab-based mimicry allowed an international team of physicists including Carnegie’s Alexander Goncharov to probe hydrogen under the conditions found in the interiors of giant planets—where experts believe it gets squeezed until it becomes a liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. Their work is published in Science.

Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe and the simplest—comprised of only a one proton and one electron in each atom. But that simplicity is deceptive, because there is still so much to learn about it, including its behavior under conditions not found on Earth.

For example, although hydrogen on the

Nitrogen is the dominant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, where it is most-commonly bonded with itself in diatomic N2 molecules. New work indicate that it becomes a metallic fluid when subjected to the extreme pressure and temperature conditions found deep insi
July 9, 2018

Washington, DC—New work from a team led by Carnegie’s Alexander Goncharov confirms that nitrogen, the dominant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, becomes a metallic fluid when subjected to the extreme pressure and temperature conditions found deep inside the Earth and other planets. Their findings are published by Nature Communications.

Nitrogen is one of the most-common elements in the universe and is crucial to life on Earth. In living organisms, it is a key part of the makeup of both the nucleic acids that form genetic material and the amino acids that make up proteins. It comprises nearly 80 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere.

But what about how nitrogen

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