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Platinum really is forever

Scientists at WSU’s Institute for Shock Physics discovered something unexpected when they tested humankind’s most valuable metals to see how much pressure they could take.

It turns out platinum is the only precious metal that retains its atomic structure when subjected to the kind of pressure found at the center of planet Earth, holding up better than gold.

Yogendra Gupta.

“No one really expected this. We thought that gold was stable forever, but it turns out it changes into a different related crystal structure under enough shock wave pressure,” said Yogendra Gupta, director of the Institute for Shock Physics at WSU. “So basically, if you want a material that will never change no matter what then store platinum.”

It’s this kind of intellectual curiosity and commitment to scientific discovery that has helped bring international acclaim to WSU’s Shock Physics research. And it demonstrates the unique capabilities of the Chicago-based Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS), a facility designed and built by WSU that enabled the experiments to be conducted.

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WSU Insider

New X‑ray beamline instrument brings unique capabilities to WSU

An X‑ray beamline with a first-of-its-kind imaging source is being installed at Washington State University’s Dodgen Research Facility. The instrument, valued at over $1 million, will allow researchers to study a range of materials at nano- and atomic-scales. It’s also perhaps the only X‑ray beamline in the world to be housed in the same facility as a research nuclear reactor, facilitating the study of irradiated materials.

The 20-foot-long instrument sends a beam of light that can penetrate through a sample which then scatters the beam onto a detector. This allows scientists to see the material’s nanostructures and atomic features. WSU’s X‑ray beamline can analyze a wide array of organic and inorganic materials from plant leaves to irradiated heavy elements to nanoparticles used in smart medicine.

Liane Moreau.

“It’s a very versatile instrument,” said Liane Moreau, a WSU assistant professor of chemistry. “It has some pretty unique capabilities. It’s the only one currently in the United States that has an imaging source. That allows us to take images and get data from a specific spot on a sample and correlate it to different spots and structures the sample might have.”

Unlike a high-powered microscope which requires dried samples, the X‑ray beamline can measure liquids and material dissolved in a solution. Researchers can also modify the environment, including changing temperature or humidity, or introducing a gas, and see how the material responds in real-time.

The machine can collect data on atomic and nanoscale structures of interest to a wide range of fields including biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine, and pharmaceutical sciences. The researchers encouraged other WSU faculty to explore how this instrument might help with their investigations.

Brian Collins.

“We are very open to working with people in different disciplines,” said Brian Collins, an associate professor of physics. “We have a team of faculty who are well versed in X‑ray techniques. We’ve worked with materials from the lightest down to the heaviest elements.”

James Boncella.

Moreau, Collins, and chemistry Professor Jim Boncella helped secure the funding to bring the beamline to WSU, raising $850,000 from funds granted through the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust and university support. Xenocs, the company that makes the machine, also gave WSU a discount and provided the unique imaging source, valued at over $110,000, for free, in return for helping test its capabilities.

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Mirage News

‘These images belong to all of us’: Spokane-area astronomers celebrate out-of-this-world footage from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope recently revealed a batch of out-of-this world images.

Webb’s First Deep Field is an infrared image that covers a miniscule patch of sky visible from the Southern hemisphere. The image illustrates the early universe with thousands of shimmering galaxies that help fill the celestial void. It is the highest resolution infrared image of the early universe that has ever existed.

One image shown in the release Monday is a spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b. The data that the Webb telescope found from WASP-96 b gives evidence to the existence of water vapor on the gas giant.

Vivienne Baldassare.

Vivienne Baldassare, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Washington State University, specializes in black holes in small galaxies and is going to use the Webb Telescope images to help with her research. Baldassare, along with a team of distinguished scientists, was awarded observations to study nearby smaller galaxies and other stellar systems to search for black holes, she said.

“This is my life’s work to try to study this population of black holes in small galaxies,” she said. Astronomy and a lot of different science fields are hugely collaborative efforts, and I love being part of a group that’s working together to try to answer these questions.”

Baldassare is jubilant about being able to further her research, but she said she believes there’s more to these pictures than meets the eye.

“The telescope is an amazing international collaboration. These images belong to all of us,” Baldassare said.

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WSU Planetarium offers views of the universe all summer long

June’s night sky is full of many summer constellations, and at the crack of dawn, Mercury, Venus, the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can be seen like beads on a thread.

The Washington State University Planetarium is hosting events each weekend this summer. At 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday, people can see the program titled The Sun, Our Living Star.

At the beginning of the event, the planetarium will open its roof to show and identify constellations in the sky. Later, a movie will be shown to educate people about the universe.

Guy Worthey.

Guy Worthey, an astrophysicist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at WSU, holds these events as a way to introduce people to astronomy.

“It’s good to connect with reality and the universe around us,” Worthey said. “We all like to be connected with the world around us, and this is a really good way to learn some connections between yourself and the universe.

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Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Ten seniors recognized for excellence

Each year, 10 graduating seniors from Washington State University are recognized for excellence in several areas: academics, athletics, campus involvement, community service, and visual and performing arts. Six students in CAS are among WSU’s top 10 of 2022.

The WSU Alumni Association and Student Alumni Ambassadors coordinate the 80-year tradition of honoring these outstanding students, who are nominated from across WSU’s six campuses.

A selection committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students chose the winners based on criteria that fit each category.

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