Manufacturing Bits: August 11

World neutrino record; synchrotron metrology; NSF engineering centers.


World neutrino record
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory has achieved a world record for high-energy neutrino experiments.

In one neutrino experiment, researchers sustained a 521-kilowatt beam generated by the organization’s so-called Main Injector particle accelerator. The previous record was a 400-plus-kilowatt beam, which was accomplished at CERN.

Fermilab's accelerator has achieved a world record for high-energy beams for neutrino experiments. (Source: Fermilab)

Fermilab’s accelerator has achieved a world record for high-energy beams for neutrino experiments. (Source: Fermilab)

Researchers from Fermilab will use the technology to study neutrinos and muons, which are fundamental building blocks of the universe. A neutrino is a sub-atomic particle that is nearly massless. They interact rarely with other matter. Trillions of them pass through our bodies each second without leaving a trace.

The muon is also an elementary particle, which is similar to the electron. They live for two millionths of a second before decaying.

Fermilab’s accelerator complex comprises seven particle accelerators and storage rings. One of those accelerators, the Main Injector, is a two-mile, circular ring. Neutrino experiments start by accelerating a beam of particles, typically protons. Then, they are smashed into a target to create neutrinos.

Synchrotron metrology
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory has produced some of the first test results from its new synchrotron light source.

The light source, dubbed the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), has just started to move into operation. The NSLS-II is a medium energy (3.0 GeV) electron storage ring with a circumference of 792 meters. It is designed to deliver photons with high average spectral brightness exceeding 1021 ph/s in the 2 – 10 keV energy range.

The system provides X-ray imaging and metrology analysis. It will enable the study of material properties and functions with nanoscale resolution.

NSLS-II is a state-of-the-art 3 GeV electron storage ring. (Source: DOE)

The NSLS-II is a state-of-the-art 3 GeV electron storage ring. (Source: DOE)

The first results from the system were based using a technology called atomic pair distribution function (PDF) analysis. Basically, PDF uses X-ray scattering to study the structure of thin films. It provides the data by looking at the distances between all pairs of atoms in a sample.

Initially, researchers tested thin-film PDF with both crystalline and amorphous thin films at 360nm thick. “The first group of NSLS-II beamlines is now successfully transitioning from technical commissioning, which began back in the fall of 2014 when we first produced X-ray light, towards science commissioning, where we benchmark and test the beamline capabilities on real samples,” said Eric Dooryhee, the lead scientist for the NSLS-II X-Ray Powder Diffraction (XPD) beamline, on the agency’s Web site.

“The discovery that we can get PDFs from samples in thin-film geometry so readily will revolutionize this area of science,” said Kirsten Jensen, a postdoctoral researcher. “The experiments don’t take any specialized equipment or expertise beyond the beamline setup at XPD and are quick, opening the way to time-resolved in-situ studies of changes in film structure under processing as well as spatially resolved studies of nanostructured films in place.”

NSF engineering centers
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested $55.5 million in three new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) in the United States. The three ERCs will address national challenges in energy, sustainability and infrastructure.

The first project, dubbed the NSF Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS), will be led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in partnership with Howard University, Stanford University and the University of Arkansas. The POETS ERC aims to devise novel 3D cooling circuitry, power converters and algorithms. The work will enable the manufacture of lighter and more efficient power electronic systems for cars, airplanes, construction equipment, handheld tools and other mobile applications.

The NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Systems (NEWT) will be led by Rice University in partnership with Arizona State University, the University of Texas at El Paso and Yale University. The NEWT Nanosystems ERC will pursue high-performance and easy-to-deploy water treatment systems that can turn both wastewater and seawater into clean drinking water.

And finally, the NSF Engineering Research Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG) will be led by Arizona State University in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, New Mexico State University, and the University of California at Davis. The CBBG ERC will investigate natural underground biological processes to engineer the ground in ways that reduce construction costs and environmental impacts.