Newswise — MANHATTAN, KANSAS — A nearly $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the "bread and butter" physics research at Kansas State University's James R. Macdonald Laboratory.

The grant is a three-year renewal award, "Structure and Dynamics of Atoms, Ions, Molecules and Surfaces."

"This big operational grant is our bread-and-butter," said Itzik Ben-Itzhak, university distinguished professor of physics and director of the J.R. Macdonald Laboratory. "The grant renewal keeps us running day-to-day and helps us continue to perform experimental and theoretical research. It also enables us to go after developmental grants for specific projects."

The J.R. Macdonald Laboratory hosts the atomic, molecular and optical physics program in the physics department and is one of the largest such programs in the country. The laboratory involves 69 researchers, including 11 faculty members, three research faculty, six staff members, 27 graduate students, five undergraduate students, two visiting graduate students and 15 postdoctoral researchers. The laboratory and physics department are part of the university's College of Arts & Sciences.

The grant renewal helps to support laboratory personnel and to maintain and operate the laboratory's three main ultrafast lasers, known as HITS, KLS and PULSAR.

One of the laboratory's strengths is the large number of experimentalists and theorists working together, Ben-Itzhak said.

"A lot of our research goes hand-in-hand," Ben-Itzhak said. "Our studies aim at better understanding of physics and the advancement of techniques associated with this type of research."

J.R. Macdonald researchers study dynamical processes involving ions, atoms, molecules, surfaces, or nanostructures exposed to short, intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation.

Some current projects in the laboratory include: • Developing a new method of using laser pulses to study the properties of molecules.• Studying polyatomic molecules and measuring the frequencies at which certain bonds vibrate.• Researching new methods for creating images of molecules breaking into fragments.

The J.R. Macdonald Laboratory was founded in 1967. In addition to the U.S. Department of Energy, the laboratory also has received support from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.