X-ray laser opens up new avenues of research in material science
Researchers have used ultra-short pulses of X-rays to film shock waves in diamonds. The study headed by DESY scientists opens up new possibilities for studying the properties of materials. Thanks to the extremely bright and short X-ray flashes, the researchers were able to follow the rapid, dynamic changes taking place in the shock wave with a high spatial as well as a high temporal resolution.
The team around DESY physicist Prof. Christian Schroer is presenting its results in the journal Scientific Reports. "With our experiment we are venturing into new scientific terrain," says the first author of the scientific paper, Dr. Andreas Schropp of DESY. "We have managed for the first time to use X-ray imaging to quantitatively determine the local properties and the dynamic changes of matter under extreme conditions."
For their pilot study, the scientists analysed diamond samples with the world's most powerful X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source LCLS at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the U.S. The researchers fixed a three centimetre long diamond strip, just 0.3 millimetre thick, in a specimen holder and triggered a shock wave with a brief flash from a powerful infrared laser that hit the narrow edge of the diamond; this pulse lasted 0.15 billionths of a second (150 picoseconds) and reached a power level of up to 12 trillion watts (12 terawatts) per square centimetre. The resulting shock wave shot through the diamond at about 72,000 kilometres per hour.
"In order to take snapshots of such rapid processes, you need to use extremely short exposure times," explains Schropp. The X-ray pulses produced by the LCLS last just 50 millionths of a billionth of a second (50 femtoseconds), allowing them to capture even the fastest movements. However, as the diamond sample was destroyed with every shot, the scientists had to repeat the experiment with identical specimens for each image, whereby each picture was taken a little later to show the shock wave at a slightly later time. Finally, they assembled these still images to create a film, as in a "flip book".
Using this film, the scientists were able to determine quantitatively the change in density due to the shock wave. The X-ray microscope specifically developed for this purpose, permits details of the sample down to 500 millionths of a millimetre (500 nanometres) to be resolved.
Together with the speed of sound measured, this allows the state of the diamond to be determined under conditions of extreme pressure. The analysis shows that the intense shock wave compresses the diamond - one of the hardest materials in the world - locally by almost ten percent.
This pilot study offers new insights into the structure of diamonds. "In view of the remarkable physical properties of diamond it continues to be important both scientifically and technologically," says Prof. Jerome Hastings of SLAC.
"We have for the first time directly imaged shock waves in diamond using X-rays, and this opens up new perspectives on the dynamic behaviour of diamond under high pressure." Material scientists are particularly interested in the complex behaviour behind the initial shock front, which can already be seen in these first images.
The scientists hope that by refining X-ray lasers and optimising the detector, the spatial resolution can be further improved to less than 100 nanometres, for instance also at the superconducting X-ray laser European XFEL that is currently being built from the DESY campus in Hamburg to the neighbouring town of Schenefeld.
Thanks to the penetrating properties of X-rays, this technique can be applied to virtually any solid material, such as iron or aluminium. "The method is important for a series of applications in material science and for describing the physical processes occurring inside planets," summarises Schroer.
Apart from DESY and SLAC, the Technical University of Dresden, the University of Oxford in the UK, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the U.S. were also involved in the research.
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY is the leading German accelerator centre and one of the leading in the world. DESY is a member of the Helmholtz Association and receives its funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (90 per cent) and the German federal states of Hamburg and Brandenburg (10 per cent). At its locations in Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin, DESY develops, builds and operates large particle accelerators, and uses them to investigate the structure of matter. DESY's combination of photon science and particle physics is unique in Europe.
Imaging Shock Waves in Diamond with Both High Temporal and Spatial Resolution at an XFEL; Andreas Schropp, Robert Hoppe, Vivienne Meier, Jens Patommel, Frank Seiboth, Yuan Ping, Damien G. Hicks, Martha A. Beckwith, Gilbert W. Collins, Andrew Higginbotham, Justin S. Wark, Hae Ja Lee, Bob Nagler, Eric C. Galtier, Brice Arnold, Ulf Zastrau, Jerome B. Hastings & Christian G. Schroer; Scientific Reports, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/srep11089
Thomas Zoufal | EurekAlert!
Pressure tuned magnetism paves the way for novel electronic devices
18.12.2018 | Bar-Ilan University
Researchers observe charge-stripe crystal phase in an insulating cuprate
18.12.2018 | Boston College
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy