Dr. Alexander Moewes
Canada Research Chair in Materials Science with Synchrotron Radiation
At the University of Saskatchewan, new Canada Research Chair Dr. Alexander Moewes is leading a basic science program that could have far-reaching implications for Canada’s long-term industrial competitiveness.
"I am an experimental condensed matter physicist who uses synchrotron radiation to research new materials," Dr. Moewes says. "The goal is to achieve an understanding of electronic structure in order to design materials with novel electronic, optical, magnetic, photochemical and catalytic properties."
If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is. Basic scientific research seeks to answer fundamental questions of how and why things work. This provides the foundation for future industrial applications – the engine of economic growth. But the search is a journey of discovery through the basics of matter itself.
"My contribution is small in the overall scheme of things," Dr. Moewes says. "Many people are involved in making new materials. What I do is characterize the materials and study their electronic structure."
Moewes uses synchrotron-based soft x-ray emission spectroscopy, called XES, to explore the properties of various structures. He has built a substantial reputation in the area using the Advanced Light Source (ALS) in Berkley, California. He’s not only looking forward to using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) under construction on campus, he’s leading the team that is developing a high brilliance XES beamline. It will be one of only a few in the world, and a powerful diagnostic tool for the materials research community.
"Soft x-rays are ideal probes that allow us to look at any material in the future," Dr. Moewes says. "It has many applications, in that it can impact the future design and development of new materials for use in sensors, storage media with increased density and ‘smart’ microelectronic devices. What I do isn’t going to be translated into something you’ll be using in ten years. This is the basic science, the work that needs to be done before others can move forward."
Moewes has actively recruited a large and talented research group since joining the university as Associate Professor of Physics and Engineering Physics in 2000.
"I’m very proud of the team we’ve built; it’s multi-disciplinary and includes people from all over the world. We need that. Once the XES beamline is fully operational, it will run 24/7 and we need a large, interested research community to keep it busy."
Moewes has led the development of the beamline from the start. It will be his responsibility to implement the equipment, direct the experimental research program and orchestrate collaborations with scientists from universities and laboratories across Canada, the USA, Russia, Japan, Korea and Germany.
"When I was at the ALS in Berkley, I was measuring things no one
else had been able to measure before," Dr. Moewes says. "It
was fun to do. I felt like an explorer, doing something that hadn’t
been done. Now, I’m very excited and proud to be creating the ability
to do that here."