FWF projects

WKP 161


Using dance as medium for science communication has proven to be a great success:
For instance, the international competition Dance your Ph.D. supported by the Science Magazine, has established dance as a perfect tool to communicate science and, thus, has been able to generate a large (non)scientific audience over the years.
In accordance with the actual FWF-project Diffusion in Glasses studied with X-ray Photon Correlation Spectroscopy, dance should be used to communicate the physical topic concerning dynamics on a microscopic level. Using this kind of art form to describe physical properties of microscopic movement is enormously suitable.

By the aid of microscopic pictures, like interactions between particles, diffusive, jump-like, oscillating atomic motion, the breaking of atomic bonds, moving randomly or in correlated manner or the instantaneous or gradual emergence of ordered or disordered structures, incentives for the development of new improvisation topics and innovative aesthetics of movement could be created. The observations of dynamical processes on a microscopic length scale can be exemplary for complex systems and every-day appearances, e.g. the growth of an epidemic, the diffusion of language, the propagation of ideas, information or knowledge. On this basis, the developed choreography should eventually result in a series of performances for a diverse (non)scientific audience. It is the aim to create a strong public awareness with regards of the significance of dynamical processes in general and of the content of the FWF-project in particular.

To generate this widespread audience, a cooperation, with professional dancers together with the students of the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna (MUK) will be carried out. The diverse venues of dance performances, e.g. the Uni Campus Wien, the MUK and the Werkstätten- und Kulturhaus Wien (WUK), should also attract the attention of a larger community.
To reach the younger generation, workshops for high school students will be additionally organized with the main focus on expressing the physical topic with dance (active participation of high school students) and with the aim of promoting and strengthening their interests in this scientific field in particular and in STEM-subjects in general. The close cooperation with the MUK University of the City of Vienna constitutes an important contribution of the development of this science communication project and should be seen as a starting point for further collaborations concerning the development of this art form as medium for science communication. Sustainability of this project is additionally guaranteed by continuous activities on social media platforms, by posting and promoting videos of the developed dance piece and by the submission of this science communication piece to various dance festivals.

For in-depth information about the project, please visit its respective page.



The movement of single atoms is a fundamental issue in materials science. The fabrication, specific properties and the stability of materials can be significantly improved with knowledge about atomic movement. Numerous properties of materials can be attributed to the single atom motion. Studies of diffusion mechanisms on the atomic scale are challenging despite a number of well-established methods which can be applied to experimentally investigate diffusion in solid state systems. Drawing conclusions from macroscopic measurements on the actual microscopic dynamics is a highly indirect procedure. Due to the relatively long timescales where atomic motion takes place, scattering techniques that rely on a high energy-resolution can only resolve fast processes. The greatest challenge is, however, that only a small number of selected isotopes are accessible to these methods which strongly limits their use. A new method not restricted to certain isotopes and capable of detecting slow diffusion is therefore required. As we have shown in our previous projects these requirements are met by atomic-scale X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (aXPCS). Former grants served the implementation of XPCS as the preferred method for studying atomic dynamics mainly in crystalline phases. The current project is devoted to studying another very intriguing form of matter, namely the family of glasses. 


Glasses are an active and promising field of research. Understanding disordered solids on a fundamental level and particularly understanding ion conduction in these materials still presents a fundamental challenge. The random formation of structural networks is an important model for explaining the glass forming ability of many materials. The dynamics of basic network components play a key role in decoding puzzling properties of this form of matter like ionic dynamics. Considerable progress with solid-oxide fuel cells, batteries and supercapacitors, in electrochemical sensors and functional polymers has been achieved recently. Even so, the basic concept of ion transport in disordered materials remains poorly understood. This is due to the fact that there is no simple, widely accepted model of transport. Considering the current strong interest in the field and the plethora of experimental and theoretical works it is striking that, in contrast to transport properties in crystalline matter, there is no general consensus on several fundamental questions. It is our aim to shed light on the motion of ions on the atomic level in ionic conducting boron and silica glass and we are confident that the insights gained can be transferred to other ionic glasses.

In our project we will profit from the continuously increasing brilliance of existing synchrotron sources like the upgrade of the ESRF in Grenoble, which was just completed and from new sources like PETRA III in Hamburg.

For in-depth information about the project, please visit its respective page.



Understanding atomic motion in solids is a fundamental issue in synthesis and stability of technically important materials; this is even more critical in nanomaterials. The timescale of atomic motion is usually uncomfortably long for experimental techniques that rely on high energy resolution (e.g. inelastic neutron scattering or Mößbauer spectroscopy), forcing measurements at unduly high temperatures. Moreover, only a small number of selected isotopes are accessible to these methods. There exists, of course, plenty of information about atomic diffusion from tracer measurements. However, drawing conclusions from tracer measurements on the actual microscopic dynamics is a highly indirect procedure, often contradictory, and always based on assumptions. Hence, a nonresonant method not restricted to certain isotopes and capable of detecting slow diffusion is extremely desirable.

We have shown in our previous project the answer to these requirements: X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS). This method monitors the temporal variations of the coherently scattered intensity as a function of the wavevector, that is, it measures dynamics directly in the Fourier domain. It has been applied since the emergence of high-energy synchrotron sources in the mid-90s for studies of slow dynamics on the nanometer scale, but had never been practiced before on single atoms. We have taken XPCS to its limits in terms of resolution by using it to reveal the slow atomic dynamics in a copper-gold alloy. The project at hand follows up on this success and establishes XPCS as the preferred method for studying atomic dynamics. Specifically, we have studied technically important high-temperature structural materials like Ni-Pt alloys, metallic glasses, and oxide glasses. These studies give a direct microscopic picture of the mechanisms leading to atomic transport, which can be very intricate in the case of ordered alloys. They also yield the temperature dependence of diffusion (i.e. the activation energy) in the low-temperature region.

In our project we profit from the continually increasing brilliance of existing synchrotron sources (cp. imminent upgrade of the ESRF in Grenoble) and from emerging new sources like PETRA III and the European XFEL in Hamburg.

For in-depth information about the project, please visit its respective page.