For much the same reason LCD televisions offer eye-popping performance, a thermomagnetic processing method developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can advance the performance of polymers.
Polymers are used in cars, planes and hundreds of consumer products, and scientists have long been challenged to create polymers that are immune to shape-altering thermal expansion. One way to achieve this goal is to develop highly directional crystalline structures that mimic those of transparent liquid crystal diode, or LCD, films of television and computer screens.
The high magnetic field environments are provided by fully recondensing commercial prototype superconducting magnet processing system. The electromagnetic fields turn and align the liquid crystal phase forming a pseudo super-structure of ordered domains. This leads to advanced physical properties such as near-zero coefficient of thermal expansion.
Unfortunately, polymers typically feature random microstructures rather than the perfectly aligned microstructure – and transparency – of the LCD film.
ORNL’s Orlando Rios and collaborators at Washington State University have pushed this barrier aside with a processing system that changes the microstructure and mechanical properties of a liquid crystalline epoxy resin.
Their finding, outlined in a paper published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials and Interfaces, offers a potential path to new structural designs and functional composites with improved properties.
The method combines conventional heat processing with the application of powerful magnetic fields generated by superconducting magnets. This provides a lever researchers can use to control the orientation of the molecules and, ultimately, the crystal alignment.
“In this way, we can achieve our goal of a zero thermal expansion coefficient and a polymer that is highly crystalline,” said Rios, a member of ORNL’s Deposition Science Group. “And this means we have the potential to dial in the desired properties for the epoxy resin polymers that are so prevalent today.”
Epoxy is commonly used in structural composites, bonded magnets and coatings. Rios noted that thermosets such as epoxy undergo a chemical cross-linking reaction that hardens or sets the material. Conventional epoxy typically consists of randomly oriented molecules with the molecular chains pointing in every direction, almost like a spider web of atoms.
“Using thermomagnetic processing and magnetically responsive molecular chains, we are able to form highly aligned structures analogous to many stacks of plates sitting on a shelf,” Rios said. “We confirmed the directionality of this structure using X-ray measurements, mechanical properties and thermal expansion.”
Co-authors of the paper, “Thermomagnetic processing of liquid crystalline epoxy resins and their mechanical characterization using nanoindentation,” are Yuzhan Li and Michael Kessler of Washington State’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
The ORNL portion of the research was supported by the Critical Materials Institute, an Energy Innovation Hub funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Washington State’s research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/
Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells
01.12.2016 | University of California - Riverside
New process produces hydrogen at much lower temperature
01.12.2016 | Waseda University
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy