Researchers and students of the Center explore the nature of matter under the extreme conditions of high pressure using a wide range of experimental techniques as well as performing first-principles calculations.


HiPSEC staff measure equilibrium thermochemical properties, mechanical properties, reaction kinetics and reaction products at static pressures using in situ x-ray diffraction, absorption, emission, light-scattering spectroscopy from infrared to x-ray wavelengths and other chemical and physical methods.

Our mission also encompasses shock experiments at NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory Albuquerque and recovering samples from these experiments for chemical, physical and mechanical analysis.


The High Pressure Science and Engineering Center is proud to be partner of a synchrotron sector, a unique example in the state of Nevada. In particular, HiPSEC is a partner of one of the best high pressure laboratories in the world: the High Pressure Collaborative Access Team, HPCAT. HPCAT runs the 4 beamlines of Sector 16 of the Advanced Photon Source (APS) of the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). The APS is the brightest storage ring in the Country and among the best in the world. As a result, HiPSEC scientists have a very privileged access to one of the most oversubscribed beamlines in the country. Our HPCAT partnership is an excellent opportunity for students: visiting regularly a state of the art national laboratory guarantees unique experimental possibilities as well as contact and exposure within a broad scientific community.

X-rays are an extremely powerful radiation with which to probe matter. X-rays are routinely used to determine crystals and amorphous materials structures, electronic structures, lattice dynamics, imaging etc. Synchrotron x-rays are indispensable in high pressure research. Synchrotron radiation is extremely intense; its spectrum has a broad energy range that can be monochromatized to a very narrow range and focused to very small size. Static high pressure samples are typically small and enclosed in bulky environmental cells. Synchrotron radiation can penetrate the cell windows and produce observable scattering and absorption from such small samples. At HPCAT, micro-focused hard x-rays are used to probe samples under extreme conditions of pressure and temperature. Several techniques are available: diffraction, tomography, absorption spectroscopy, emission spectroscopy, etc. HPCAT is equipped with state of the art pressure and temperature control systems, including resistive and laser heating, cryostats, membranes and gearboxes for remote pressure control and an on-line Paris-Edinburgh apparatus.

Several HiPSEC members are involved in technical developments in collaboration with HPCAT staff.


Theoretical and computational studies focus on material properties under extreme conditions such as high pressure, high stress and/or high temperature. Staff in the theory group develop and implement a wide range of first-principles and many-body modeling and simulation approaches in theoretical exploration and also work closely with experimental groups.