The University of Rochester is leading a seven-institution collaboration that will attempt significantly broaden human understanding of “extreme matter”—matter that exists under pressures far higher than either on or inside Earth. The project is supported by the National Science Foundation, which awarded the university a $1.1 million grant.

The collaboration that includes such institutions as Cornell University, Michigan, Idaho State University, Iowa, Princeton University, and Stanford, will develop an instrument called a high amperage driver for extreme states, or HADES, which will allow scientists to produce and study extreme matter, UR said.

UR is an ideal choice, officials said because it’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics is home to the world’s largest university-based laser, OMEGA. This laser, which was built to explore thermonuclear fusion, also allows scientists to explore key questions in astrophysics. Together with OMEGA, HADES will allow scientists to study in greater depths how extreme matter evolves under wide-ranging space and time scales.

Pierre Gourdain, an assistant professor of physics at Rochester and the principal investigator on the project, notes that HADES will lead to new knowledge about star formation and planetary collisions, the potential for life on other planets, and the properties of materials that make up deep-space objects.

Rochester’s leadership on the HADES project will deliver invaluable rewards to its students and scientists, furthering the University’s goal of becoming a leader in high-energy-density science, officials said..