Manufacturing Bits: May 10

Diamond polarimeters; liquid cell microscopy; small business funding.

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Diamond polarimeters
The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) has achieved what it says are the highest precision measurements of polarization in an atom smasher.

The measurements were conducted with an instrument called a Hall C Compton Polarimeter. The polarimeter makes use of electron-photon scattering techniques and diamond-based microstrip detectors.

The goal is to discover new sub-atomic particles and forces that build the nucleus of the atom. This includes protons, neutrons, quarks and gluons.

The experiments took place within Jefferson Labs’ Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). Jefferson Labs is one of 17 national laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

In simple terms, the CEBAF is a particle accelerator, based on superconducting radio-frequency (SRF) technology. For this experiment, the CEBAF smashes the atoms. It takes electrons and groups them. Then, it sends those groups to a spinning phase. Then, researchers can probe the nucleus of the atoms. Researchers must also ensure that the electrons have the right characteristics. So they must measure the electrons before they are smashed.

Enter the Hall C Compton Polarimeter. This system measures the polarization of the CEBAF electron beam just before it reaches the experiment. A diamond microstrip detector within the system captures most of the spectrum of scattered electrons, according to researchers.

The Hall C Compton Polarimeter uses a novel detector system built of thin slivers of diamond. (Source: Jefferson Lab)

The Hall C Compton Polarimeter uses a novel detector system built of thin slivers of diamond. (Source: Jefferson Lab)

With the technology, researchers measured the polarization of a low-energy, 1-GeV continuous-wave (CW) electron beam. “The polarization of the 180−μA , 1.16-GeV electron beam was measured with a statistical precision of <1% per hour and a systematic uncertainty of 0.59%,” according to researchers. “This precision has been achieved at higher beam energies, but it is much, much more difficult at lower energies, such as the energies we use at Jefferson Lab,” said David Gaskell, a Jefferson Lab staff scientist, on the agency’s Web site.

Liquid cell microscopy
The University of California at San Diego, Scienion AG and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a new proof-of-concept tool that images the mixing process in liquids at the nanoscale.

The tool technology is based on liquid cell transmission electron microscopy (LCTEM). Researchers have taken this a step further by developing a picoliter dispensing technology in combination with LCTEM. This is referred to as picoliter drop-on-demand dispensing for multiplex LCTEM.

This piezo dispensing technique provides an insight into nanomaterials in solutions. It permits deposition of 50 pL droplets of solutions onto the viewing area of the LCTEM.

By mixing combinations of gold nanoparticles (yellow arrows) with other nanoscale crystals (blue arrows) in the LCTEM (at left), chemists showed their technique works. (Images by Lucas Parent, UC San Diego)

By mixing combinations of gold nanoparticles (yellow arrows) with other nanoscale crystals (blue arrows) in the LCTEM (at left), chemists showed their technique works. (Images by Lucas Parent, UC San Diego)

The technology could solve some problems. For years, researchers have used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) for nanoscale imaging. But this technology can take only static images. The specimens must be dried or frozen. Then, there is a related technology called LCTEM. This can take videos of nanoscale objects in liquids, but this technology is limited. It is unable to control the mixing of solutions.

Now, researchers have devised LCTEM with picoliter dispensing. “Being able to look at nanoscale chemical gradients and reactions as they take place is just such a fundamental tool in biology, chemistry and all of material science,” said Nathan Gianneschi, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego, on the university’s Web site. “With this new tool, we’ll be able to look at the kinetics and dynamics of chemical interactions that we’ve never been able to see before.

“The benefits to basic research are huge,” he said. “We will now be able to directly see the growth at the nanoscale of all kinds of things, like natural fibers or microtubules. There’s a lot of interest on the part of researchers in understanding how the surfaces of nanoparticles affect chemical reactions or how nanoscale defects on the surfaces of materials develop. We can finally look at the interfaces on nanostructures so that we can optimize the development of new kinds of catalysts, paints and suspensions.”

Small business funding
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will provide up to $7 million in funding for pilot projects to benefit small U.S. manufacturers.

The agency is expanding its collaboration between its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The goal is to test and develop approaches that will engage small manufacturers in the work of the Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. NIST anticipates funding around seven pilot project awards at approximately $300,000 to $600,000 per year for each award for up to two years. The anticipated award date is Oct. 1, 2016.

“Expanding the collaboration between the NNMI and MEP is an important step forward in our efforts to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers,” said Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, in a statement.