X-ray laser experiment explores how specially shocked material gets stronger

Apr 23, 2014 by Glenn Roberts Jr.
Despina Milathianaki, a staff scientist at SLAC's LCLS, holds a series of titanium alloy samples prepared for an experiment. The experiment was designed to study the laser-shocked state of the materials. Credit: Fabricio Sousa/SLAC

(Phys.org) —Rolls-Royce researchers came to SLAC earlier this month as part of a team testing titanium and titanium alloys such as those used in engine parts, landing gear and other aircraft components.

While the Rolls-Royce brand is also associated with luxury cars, this separate company, Rolls-Royce PLC, is a major global manufacturer of aircraft engines that power over 30 types of commercial aircraft. It is the first industrial user of SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser since LCLS opened to visiting scientists in October 2009.

"Understanding materials is what drives innovation in the materials," said Michael G. Glavicic, a materials specialist for Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis, who led the experiment with David Dye of Imperial College London.

Ultimately, Glavicic said, "We want to understand what happens to a material when it's in an engine. The more we know about how an alloy behaves, the more we can be creative and figure out ways to take advantage of those properties."

The company's researchers often partner with laboratories and universities to explore hybrid materials that could find their way into products. In this case they are seeking a deeper understanding of how titanium alloys behave when pushed to extremes not found in any flight test. The results could lead to ways to make the alloys even tougher.

Lightweight, super-strong and able to withstand high heat and stress, titanium is increasingly airborne; the major application of titanium alloys is in aircraft components.

Some of the members of a Rolls-Royce-led team at SLAC's LCLS X-ray laser explore shocked titanium and titanium alloys. From left: Tom Swinburne, graduate student at Imperial College London; Despina Miathianakis, LCLS staff scientist; Michael G. Glavicic, associate fellow materials at Rolls-Royce Corp.; and Garth Williams, LCLS staff scientist. Credit: Fabricio Sousa/SLAC

The LCLS experiment was designed to study the creation and growth of deformation in thin-foil samples of titanium and its alloys. Researchers hit the samples with powerful optical laser pulses at LCLS, and then used the X-ray laser to study how the material responded to this shock. The ultrashort, ultrabright X-ray laser pulses can uniquely capture images of samples at the nanoscale, and in increments measured in tens of femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second).

One type of stress-caused deformation that researchers hoped to see forming is known as "twinning," named for mirror-image patterns that appear in the metal's microscopic structure. These twin regions are separated by thin boundaries that appear as lines. Like well-sewn seams across layers of fabric, the twin boundaries can actually strengthen the material.

An equipment table at the Coherent X-ray Imaging (CXI) experimental station at SLAC's LCLS. The equipment was put to use in an experiment studying the shocked state of titanium and titanium alloys. Credit: Fabricio Sousa/SLAC

"This is something that nobody has done before in that we're hoping to see 'twins' form – see the rate at which they form, to understand what role chemistry plays in causing things to twin," Glavicic said. "It could potentially confirm or build on current theories."

Researchers hope to use deformation mechanisms that are now considered a hindrance to improve how materials withstand stress. While commercial applications from such an experiment may be decades away, Glavicic said the goal is to gain fundamental insights about material properties that can be shared with the scientific community.

The sample chamber at the Coherent X-ray Imaging experimental station at SLAC's LCLS. Credit: Fabricio Sousa/SLAC

"LCLS is uniquely suited to this type of experiment," said Despina Milathianaki, an LCLS staff scientist involved in the research, "because the deformation processes often evolve in trillionths of a second," or picoseconds. The tiny focus and coherence of the LCLS X-ray pulses, she said, also allow scientists to capture images within a single "crystallite" or grain in the metal, which is an individual building block in a metal's structure.

"We hope that this is the first of many collaborations with industry partners seeking to understand fundamental materials science by exploiting the unique capabilities of LCLS," Milathianaki added.

Explore further: Scientists capture ultrafast snapshots of light-driven superconductivity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Copper shock: An atomic-scale stress test

Oct 22, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists used the powerful X-ray laser at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to create movies detailing trillionths-of-a-second changes in the arrangement ...

New X-ray tool proves timing is everything

Feb 20, 2013

(Phys.org)—With SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser, timing is everything. Its pulses are designed to explore atomic-scale processes that are measured in femtoseconds, or quadrillionths of a ...

Speed limit set for ultrafast electrical switch

Jul 28, 2013

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have clocked the fastest-possible electrical switching in magnetite, a naturally magnetic mineral. Their results ...

Scientists line up unruly gas molecules for X-rays

Dec 20, 2013

(Phys.org) —It's hard to study individual molecules in a gas because they tumble around chaotically and never sit still. Researchers at SLAC overcame this challenge by using a laser to point them in the ...

X-ray laser at SLAC maps important drug target

Dec 31, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers have used one of the brightest X-ray sources on the planet to map the 3-D structure of an important cellular gatekeeper known as a G protein-coupled receptor, or GPCR, in a more ...

Recommended for you

New insights found in black hole collisions

20 hours ago

New research provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe—the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole.

X-rays probe LHC for cause of short circuit

20 hours ago

The LHC has now transitioned from powering tests to the machine checkout phase. This phase involves the full-scale tests of all systems in preparation for beam. Early last Saturday morning, during the ramp-down, ...

Swimming algae offer insights into living fluid dynamics

Mar 27, 2015

None of us would be alive if sperm cells didn't know how to swim, or if the cilia in our lungs couldn't prevent fluid buildup. But we know very little about the dynamics of so-called "living fluids," those ...

First glimpse inside a macroscopic quantum state

Mar 27, 2015

In a recent study published in Physical Review Letters, the research group led by ICREA Prof at ICFO Morgan Mitchell has detected, for the first time, entanglement among individual photon pairs in a beam ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.