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NIU physicist Michel van Veenendaal pens new book

January 29, 2015

Book cover of “Theory of Inelastic Scattering and Absorption of X-rays” by Michel van VeenendaalA new book by a Northern Illinois University professor sheds light on X-rays.

Michel van Veenendaal, distinguished research professor in the NIU Department of Physics and physicist at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, is the author of the book titled, “Theory of Inelastic Scattering and Absorption of X-rays” (Cambridge University Press).

“The book provides a background to graduate students and scientists that want to do research in the area of X-ray absorption and inelastic X-ray scattering,” van Veenendaal said. “These are important types of experiments, mainly done at large X-ray sources, known as synchrotrons.

“NIU is fortunate to be very close to the nation’s leading synchrotron: the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory,” he added. “X-rays are produced by electrons going around in the 1,104-metre (3,622 ft) circumference storage ring at over 99.999% of the speed of light. The X-rays then hit the material that experimentalists want to study. The material can absorb or scatter the X-rays. By measuring what happened scientists can study the properties of the materials that were hit by the X-rays.”

In 2011, van Veenendaal co-authored a review article on resonant inelastic x-ray scattering (RIXS) [Reviews of Modern Physis 83, 705 (2011)], which is one of NIU’s most-cited papers of the last four years.

Michel van Veenendaal

Michel van Veenendaal

The paper deals with a spectroscopic technique that has come to the forefront in the last one to two decades. RIXS allows researchers to probe the electronic and magnetic structure by having X-rays scatter inelastically of a material. Despite being a review paper, it was clear that most researchers entering this field would have a hard time understanding it. An outline was sent to Cambridge University Press for a book that would provide a solid theoretical grounding into the field of X-ray spectroscopy.

X-ray spectroscopy is a powerful tool that allows researchers to study properties of materials that are difficult to obtain with other methods. For example, since the wavelength of the X-ray can be tuned, one can study one particular element in complicated compounds. By using polarized X-rays, the technique also becomes sensitive to the magnetic properties of the material. However, although the basics are taught in most quantum mechanics classes, the theory quickly becomes complex. The book introduces underlying concepts and encourages a deep understanding of these techniques.

“Theory of Inelastic Scattering and Absorption of X-rays” was released Jan. 26.

by Jane Donahue