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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Stock image of the transition metals section of the periodic table
July 1, 2020

Washington, DC— You’ve heard the expression form follows function? In materials science, function follows form.

New research by Carnegie’s Olivier Gagné and collaborator Frank Hawthorne of the University of Manitoba categorizes the causes of structural asymmetry, some surprising, which underpin useful properties of crystals, including ferroelectricity, photoluminescence, and photovoltaic ability. Their findings are published this week as a lead article in the International Union of Crystallography Journal.

“Understanding how different bond arrangements convey various useful attributes is central to the materials sciences” explained

April 15, 2020

Washington, DC— Carnegie mineralogist Robert Hazen was inducted last month as a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences—the nation’s highest-level scientific society, originally founded by Peter the Great. This is a rare honor for an American researcher.

The ceremony, originally scheduled for the end of March, was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Staff Scientist at Carnegie’s Earth and Planets Laboratory, Hazen pioneered the concept of mineral evolution—linking an explosion in mineral diversity to the rise of life on Earth—and developed  the idea of mineral ecology—which analyzes the spatial distribution of the

Carbon-boron clathrate cage with strontium inside, courtesy Tim Strobel
January 10, 2020

Washington, DC— A long-sought-after class of “superdiamond” carbon-based materials with tunable mechanical and electronic properties was predicted and synthesized by Carnegie’s Li Zhu and Timothy Strobel. Their work is published by Science Advances.

Carbon is the fourth-most-abundant element in the universe and is fundamental to life as we know it. It is unrivaled in its ability to form stable structures, both alone and with other elements.

A material’s properties are determined by how its atoms are bonded and the structural arrangements that these bonds create. For carbon-based materials, the type of bonding makes the difference between the

December 16, 2019

Washington, DC— Every school child learns about the water cycle—evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection. But what if there were a deep Earth component of this process happening on geologic timescales that makes our planet ideal for sustaining life as we know it?

New work published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Carnegie’s Yanhao Lin and Michael Walter—along with former Carnegie scientists and ongoing collaborators Ho-Kwang “Dave” Mao and Qingyang Hu of the Center for High Pressure Science and Technology Advanced Research Shanghai and Yue Meng of Argonne National Laboratory—demonstrates that a key

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The Geophysical Laboratory has made important advances in the growth of diamond by chemical vapor deposition (CVD).  Methods have been developed to produce single-crystal diamond at low pressure having a broad range of properties.

Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso joined the Department of Plant Biology as a staff associate in September 2019. He investigates whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with climate change by conducting large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments. He also develops computational methods to derive fundamental principles of evolution, such as how fast natural populations acquire new mutations and how past climates shaped continental-scale biodiversity patterns. His goal is to use these first principles and computational approaches to forecast evolutionary outcomes of populations under climate change to anticipate potential future

Staff Associate Kamena Kostova joined the Department of Embryology in November 2018. She studies ribosomes, the factory-like structures inside cells that produce proteins. Scientists have known about ribosome structure, function, and biogenesis for some time. But, a major unanswered question is how cells monitor the integrity of the ribosome itself. Problems with ribosomes have been associated with diseases including neurodegeneration and cancer. The Kostova lab investigates the fundamental question of how cells respond when their ribosomes break down using mass spectrometry, functional genomics methods, and CRISPR genome editing.

Kostova received a B.S. in Biology from the

Sally June Tracy applies cutting-edge experimental and analytical techniques to understand the fundamental physical behavior of materials at extreme conditions. She uses dynamic compression techniques with high-flux X-ray sources to probe the structural changes and phase transitions in materials at conditions that mimic impacts and the interiors of terrestrial and exoplanets. She is also an expert in nuclear resonant scattering and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. She uses these techniques to understand novel behavior at the electronic level.  Tracy received her Ph.D. from the California Institute of

The Ludington lab investigates complex ecological dynamics from microbial community interactions using the fruit fly  Drosophila melanogaster. The fruit fly gut carries numerous microbial species, which can be cultured in the lab. The goal is to understand the gut ecology and how it relates to host health, among other questions, by taking advantage of the fast time-scale and ease of studying the fruit fly in controlled experiments.