Science Highlights

The hard X-ray full-field transmission x-ray microscope on SSRL BL6-2C is an excellent tool to examine nanoscale heterogeneities in many materials including complex hierarchical systems such as catalysts, fuel cells and battery electrodes, and biological mineralized tissue and environmental samples. TXM imaging in 2D and 3D with resolution down to ~30 nm and spectroscopic capabilities from ~4.5 to 13 keV can be used for morphological, elemental and chemical mapping over tens of microns (up to mm in 2D). Operando sample environments include high temperature and pressure and full operating batteries.

Science Highlight Gallery

A Five-dimensional Visualization of the Pressure-induced Phase Transition in BiNiO3

It is common knowledge that materials expand when heated. However, a chemical compound known as BiNiO3 proves to be quite extraordinary in that it contracts with rising temperature. By mixing BiNiO3 with “conventionally” expanding materials, it becomes possible to produce composite materials with zero or other desired thermal expansion values – a possibility with great potential for engineering and other applications. The same transition from a low-density to a high-density phase of BiNiO3 observed for increasing temperatures can also be induced by applying high pressure.

Mesoscale Phase Distribution in Li-ion Battery Electrode Materials

Li-ion batteries are key devices in the effort to develop efficient chemical energy storage from sustainable energy sources. However, any effort to optimize battery performance requires a deeper understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of diffusion and phase transformation in battery electrodes.

Imaging and Speciation of CeO2 and ZnO Nanoparticles in Soybean (Glycine max): Nanoparticle Transfer to the Food Chain

The global production of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) is currently a trillion-dollar industry. However, ENPs behave differently than their bulk counterparts, mostly due to increased specific surface area and reactivity, which has raised concerns about their fate, transport, and toxicity in the environment. A growing number of products containing ENPs are already on the market, including ZnO nanoparticles widely used sunscreen, gas sensors, pigments and other applications, and nanoceria (Ce ENPs) used as catalysts for internal combustion and oil cracking processes.

Percolation Explains How Earth’s Iron Core Formed

Earth’s inner structure is organized into layers. The outermost crust overlays the mantle, which, in turn, surrounds our planet’s core. The crust and mantle are mainly composed of silicate rocks. In contrast, Earth’s core is metallic, containing predominantly iron. But how did iron separate from the silicates in order to form the metallic core during Earth’s evolution? Researchers have recently provided evidence that the percolation of liquid iron alloys through a solid silicate matrix can explain the formation of Earth’s core.

Nanoscale Examination of Microdamage in Sheep Cortical Bone

A study, recently published in PLoS ONE by researchers from Cornell University, Hospital for Special Surgery, and SSRL, describes nanoscale visualization of micro-damage in cortical bone tissue using x-ray negative staining and synchrotron-based x-ray imaging. The first study to examine bone damage at the nanoscale using full-field x-ray imaging in cortical bone, it provides new insights into bone damage and propagation of fractures.

Fischer-Tropsch Catalyst Nanoscale Chemistry under Realistic Working Conditions

Olefins are the basic building blocks for many products from the petrochemical industry and are currently produced by steam cracking of naphtha or ethane, but increasing oil and gas prices are driving the industry toward producing olefins from syngas derived from cheaper feedstocks via the Fischer-Tropsch process instead. A team of scientists used full-field Transmission hard X-ray Microscopy (TXM) and a special reactor designed and built at SSRL and installed on SSRL Beam Line 6-2 to learn more about the catalyst at the heart of the Fischer-Tropsch-to-Olefins (FTO) process.