Advanced Spectroscopic Capabilities for 3-D Synchrotron X-Ray Microscopes
Many important technology challenges today such as the capacity and life time of batteries require new characterization techniques to understand and improve performance. In the STTR Phase II project, novel x-ray microscope techniques and software are developed to be able to image samples in three dimensions and determine chemical composition and function on a microscopic level. As known from ubiquitous medical applications, x-rays are able to penetrate and generate images of objects that are opaque to our vision. They can visualize the inside of objects in three dimensions without disturbing or destroying the objectcritical for medical applications. The same advantages hold true at the microscopic scale, well beyond our ability to see things with the naked eye or even a high-powered optical microscope. X-ray microscopes are able to produce images of, for example, microscopic areas inside a battery to directly visualize the chemical processes going on during charging and discharging. Up to now, these were only grey-scale images showing structuremuch like black-and-white TV in the early days. High-powered x-ray sources and new technology developed at National Laboratories now has demonstrated that it is possible to not only show structure, but also put a color that corresponds to the chemical composition or even the chemical state of elements in these 3-D images. In Phase I of the project, it has been demonstrated that it is feasible to develop a robust, commercial solution to bring this color x-ray microscopy to a commercial solution. In Phase II of the project, the demonstrated capabilities will be packaged into a commercial solution that will be available to researchers at Universities, National Laboratories and Industrial Institutions. A new spectroscopic imaging mode with unprecedented sensitivity will be integrated into this solution to offer the capability to for example detect trace contaminants in soil samples and identify how they associate spatially with soil constituents. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The developed product is expected to have high impact in many current focus-areas of research. In particular, in the development and optimization of energy storage and conversion devices (batteries, fuel cells, etc.), water purification (membranes), and catalytic reactions to name only a few. The unique insight x-ray microscopes deliver in terms of understanding the structure, hierarchical organization and elemental/chemical interactions enables the design of targeted experimentation with an understanding of the detailed nano-scale mechanisms.
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