As a thermodynamic parameter, pressure is remarkable in many ways. It spans in the visible universe over sixty orders of magnitude, from the non-equilibrium pressure of hydrogen in intergalactic space, to the kind of pressure encountered within neutron stars.
In the laboratory, it provides unique possibility to control structure and properties of materials, dramatically alter electronic properties, break existing, or form new chemical bonds by reaching compressions in excess of an order of magnitude for molecular materials.
This agenda naturally encompasses elements of physics (properties and structure), chemistry (chemical reactions, transport), materials science (new materials) and engineering (mechanical properties); in addition it has direct applications and implications for geology (minerals in their natural, deep earth environments), planetary sciences, biology and medicine (deep sea ecosystems, membranes, protein and nucleic acid folding, the role of high-pressure in the origin of prebiotic forms of matter and the origin of life, des-activation of viruses and toxins).
Beyond its specificity, high-pressure science finds direct or indirect (i.e. economic) application in several fields of modern European technology, such as mechanical engineering (strain/stress analysis), optoelectronics and spintronics, nanotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, food processing, petroleum industry, seismic data interpretation, etc.