Musings about the development of XAFS

Edward A. Stern

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A personal recollection of the development of X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) into a structure-determination technique is presented. Because of confusion in the theoretical explanation of the 'Kronig structure', now called EXAFS, the extended XAFS, its explanation remained unresolved for about 40 years. As I was introduced to the EXAFS phenomenon by Farrel Lytle and saw his impressive data, the thought came to me that scattering of the photoelectron from surrounding atoms could be the mechanism of the effect. My graduate student, Dale Sayers, agreed to work on developing the theory under my supervision and to make EXAFS measurements under Lytle's supervision as his PhD thesis. The theory led to the idea of a Fourier transform of the EXAFS, which showed peaks from surrounding atoms, proving the validity of the theory and suggesting the method of structure determination by using standards from known structures. Within a few years, facilities at synchrotron sources were developed to measure XAFS, opening up the technique to the general scientific community. In spite of some initial growing pains, XAFS has matured into a powerful technique for local structure and has been applied to obtain magnetic structure, in addition to distribution of atoms. Other related techniques have been spawned from XAFS, expanding the impact of the original phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Synchrotron Radiation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Development of XAFS
  • XAFS


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