High Pressure Science

The application of high pressure is an extremely powerful tool used to induce unique changes in the structure, properties, and behavior of matter. Coupled with neutron scattering, high pressure research addresses many challenges in highly diversified areas of science. Solving such a wide range of problems requires a wide range of technology and expertise. Through inhouse and collaborative approaches, ORNL researchers are continuously on the cutting edge of developing state-of-the-art pressure cells and advanced high-pressure techniques.

These techniques and developments enable the high-pressure science initiative to maintain a broad scientific portfolio with four core science areas:

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences: Many areas of geosciences rely on the replication of the extreme conditions that exist within planetary bodies. In situ neutron scattering under extreme conditions can provide invaluable insights into many geological aspects such as understanding water uptake in earth’s minerals or the pressure-temperature phase diagrams of such minerals. In situ neutron scattering under extremes is equally important for understanding the formation and behaviors of matter in extraterrestrial bodies such as planetary ices or hydrogen and other light elements.
  • High Pressure Physics of Quantum Materials: High pressure provides a clean tuning parameter when probing emergent phenomena in quantum materials. For example, the application of high pressure is necessary for the characterization and understanding of magnetic phase diagrams. Additionally, high pressure can be used to induce new behaviors and properties that give rise to skyrmions and superconductivity in novel materials.
  • High Pressure Materials Science: Extreme conditions enable unique access to local minima in a material’s energy landscape. Such access is highly relevant for high-pressure chemistry to synthesize new structures under pressure, or for materials sciences that aims to recover novel materials synthesized under high pressure syntheses to ambient conditions for further scientific and technological uses. The application of high pressure is also critical to understanding how materials behave in and withstand external extreme conditions.
  • Biosystems and Soft Matter: The application of high pressure can play a critical role in biological sciences and soft matter and can provide unique insights for a large variety of problems such as pretreatment of biomass for biofuel applications, improving food processing or protein stability, and the study of CO2, water or other absorption in porous materials.