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Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in Pennsylvania and across the United States have led to groundbreaking discoveries and development of new technologies that help meet the nation’s needs for sustainable energy, economic prosperity, and security.

Carnegie Mellon leads effort to build new X-ray diffraction instrument for Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source

Carnegie Mellon University principal investigator Bob Suter checks a setting on the new X-ray diffraction instrument at Argonne’s APS. (Image by Wes Agresta, Argonne National Laboratory.)

A consortium of universities, led by Carnegie Mellon University, has constructed a new X-ray diffraction instrument at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. The new instrument at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, will use the ultrabright X-rays generated there to create 3D views of a wide variety of materials.

The APS beamline 1-ID uses nondestructive X-rays to measure ceramics, metals and other polycrystalline materials on the grain scale. But as a world-leading destination for gaining this unique information, the APS beamline is in high demand. Carnegie Mellon scientists were inspired to lead an effort ― funded by the National Science Foundation ― to design and build the new High-Throughput High-Energy Diffraction Microscopy Instrument at the APS 6-ID-D beamline to provide more experiment options for scientists. The instrument will streamline measurements, allowing scientists to gain a better understanding of how existing materials behave under thermal and mechanical stresses and enabling the discovery of new materials, such as new forms of cathodes and anodes for batteries.

Other members of the consortium include the Colorado School of Mines, Purdue University and the University of Utah.

Argonne and Pitt uncover the secrets of solar cells

Temperature can have a dramatic effect on solar cells. (Image by Zhu Difeng/Shutterstock.)

Solar power is a renewable, sustainable and virtually inexhaustible source of electricity. Solar cells, therefore, are essential to the mission of clean energy advanced by the DOE. But temperature can have a dramatic effect on solar cells, profoundly influencing their efficiency and lifespan.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, leveraged the power of supercomputers at Argonne to study how a material’s electronic structure leads to fluctuations in the operating temperature of solar cells.

Using the supercomputers at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), the team studied grain boundaries, ubiquitous defects that can greatly affect a material’s mechanical and electronic properties. Interpreting the atomic structures within a grain boundary is difficult without theoretical models. The ALCF’s high-performance supercomputers enabled the team to create simulations and ultimately gain a comprehensive understanding of how temperature impacts the electronic structure of a solar cell.

Argonne/Carnegie Mellon team identifies causes of defects in 3D printing

Gas pocket detected during 3D printing process. (Image courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University.)

The advent of 3D printing promises to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. Yet, the tiny gas pockets that sometimes form during the printing process can lead to cracks and other product failures. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have identified how and when these gas pockets form — a pivotal discovery that could dramatically improve the technology.

Until now, manufacturers had used a trial-and-error approach to seek to reduce such defects. Researchers used the high-energy X-rays at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, to take super-fast video and images of the printing process. The images revealed that defects form when pockets of gas (known as vapor depressions) become unstable during the laser scanning that forms the product.

The team also determined how to predict when a small depression will grow into a big, unstable one that can potentially create a defect.