Neutron pinhole magnifies discoveries at ORNL | 11/16/2018 | Staff
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Advanced materials are vital ingredients in products that we rely on like batteries, jet engine blades, 3-D-printed components in cars. Scientists and engineers use information about the structure and motion of atoms in these materials to design components that make these products more reliable, efficient and safe to use.

Today, there are limits to how much scientists can see at atomic scales in these materials—especially while they are in use, and that makes it much harder to design new components that are exponentially better than what we have today.

Data - Products - Team - Engineers - Scientists

To provide the data necessary to improve these products, a team of engineers and scientists from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a new pinhole-based diffraction technique they call PIND. In a paper published in Applied Physics Letters, they proved that it is possible to drastically improve the magnification and resolution of structures deep within engineered components with pinhole diffraction.

"In a first for time-of-flight neutron diffraction on the VULCAN instrument, we were able to increase the resolution by roughly an order of magnitude with a pinhole," said Ke An, an ORNL instrument scientist.

Concept - Microscopes - Object - Pinhole - Slit

The concept is simple. Much as microscopes use lenses to focus light to magnify an object, a perfectly placed pinhole or slit can focus the neutrons scattering off a sample as they pass through. This small addition to the VULCAN instrument at ORNL's Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), coupled with the addition of a new and improved helium-3 detector, increased the instrument's spatial resolution by eight times: from 2,000 microns (µm), roughly the thickness of a spaghetti noodle, to approximately 250 µm, which is about the length of 30 blood cells in a straight line.

"Not only have we proved that it is possible to drastically improve the resolution of neutron diffractometers with a pinhole, but we believe...
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