Los Alamos scientists use Argonne beamline to analyze magnesium-niobium nanocomposite
A research team from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, in collaboration with various university partners, is using the high-energy X-rays at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Photon Source (APS) user facility at Argonne National Laboratory to analyze the stability of magnesium-niobium nanocomposites. These composites are commonly used in the construction and oil and gas industries.
The team used the APS beamline to analyze magnesium-niobium’s stability under high pressure. Magnesium’s high strength-to-weight ratio makes it a metal critical to energy savings, notably in the auto and aerospace industries. However, magnesium’s lack of ductility — that is, its ability to be made into wire or deform without breaking — limits its use in many industrial applications.
Using high-energy X-rays and a diamond anvil cell, the team imaged the structural changes of a 7-8 nanometer-thick sample of magnesium alloy. They discovered a particular transformation in the structure at high pressures that points toward a method for increasing the material’s ductility. This pivotal discovery promises to advance the state of the art in numerous industries and application of advanced manufactured materials.
Air Force, Los Alamos use Argonne beamline in shock wave research
Using uniquely integrated X-ray and shock wave capabilities at the Dynamic Compression Sector of Argonne’s APS, scientists from Los Alamos and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) have achieved a significant breakthrough in materials engineering and shock wave research.
Assisted by National Nuclear Security Administration funding, the team developed a 3D-printed polymer-based foam structure that responds to shock loading as a one-way switch, a long sought-after goal in shock research. Tiny, specifically engineered holes in the structure determined the foam’s response. Computer modeling helped the team identify the most promising configurations. Printed test pieces the size of a pencil eraser were probed in real time as the material was shocked, using APS synchrotron X-rays to image the localization of shock wave energy.
While in the early stages of its development, sources say the material has the potential to be scaled up for a variety of military and other applications, including for the protection of structures.
Los Alamos/Argonne collaborate to create more affordable fuel cells
A fuel cell consists of an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte. A catalyst at the anode causes the generation of ions, which then pass between the anode and cathode by way of the electrolyte. With near-zero undesirable emissions, fuel cells represent a highly attractive technology offering a broad array of practical power applications, including emergency backup, portable, stationary and transportation power. However, despite many advances in fuel-cell technology, cost remains a significant obstacle to wide-scale manufacture: the anode catalyst in alkaline fuel cells is a prohibitively expensive platinum group metal.
Using transmission electron microscopy at Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, scientists from Argonne and Los Alamos are collaborating in search of a more affordable solution. The team has synthesized a new platinum-ruthenium based anode catalyst that permits ultralow loading of platinum. Analysis shows that the novel catalyst approaches the DOE’s 2020 performance and cost targets for transportation applications — a discovery that promises to substantially lower the cost of ion exchange membrane fuel cells and the products that rely on them.