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X-ray beamline synchrotron

Ultra-fast X-rays provide new insights into materials

Researchers from RISE and Chalmers went, together with the company Tree to Textile, to Hamburg to conduct experiments at a synchrotron facility. The facilities provide access to a very strong X-ray beam, that enables advanced material analysis.

It's the last weekend before Christmas and Hamburg is full of people strolling around the stalls and drinking Glühwein. On the bus from the train station we get a glimpse of the Christmas market between the houses, possibly a little jealous, since we know we probably won't have time to go there during our visit. Our final destination lies a few kilometers away; DESY, the German synchrotron facility. Here it is considerably calmer, but appearances are deceiving. In these facilities, research is carried out practically every day of the year, around the clock.

We set up 'camp' at one of the measuring stations: the beamline. Well, it feels a bit like that. We stock up on food, snacks, and coffee of course, to be able to work efficiently during the long days. We are a total of four researchers from RISE and Chalmers, together with Åsa Östlund from Tree to Textile. Thin capillaries are filled with samples that are exposed to X-rays. It's a tricky job, but one that provides a lot of information about the material in the end.

X-rays can be used to study the molecular structure, such as crystallinity, inside a material. At a synchrotron facility there is access to a highly focused and concentrated X-ray beam, which enables unique analysis of materials and physical processes. A measurement that takes tens of minutes on a lab-scale X-ray can be performed here in a fraction of a second. Thus, with the help of synchrotron X-rays, we can follow structural changes in the sample during a process, in real time.

- I went to Hamburg to understand more about the cellulose structure, which is the material we work with at Tree to Textile, says Åsa. It will be exciting to see if we can capture how the structure changes when we handle cellulose from different natural raw materials.

Sample insertion by Joanna Wojtasz-Mucha, researcher from Chalmers.

RISE has extensive experience with synchrotron measurements

For three days, we have round-the-clock access to the measuring station. To get that, you have to apply about six months in advance, a process that RISE has a lot of experience with. Every year, RISE conducts several synchrotron visits on behalf of various companies or within publicly funded research projects.

- The first time you go to a synchrotron, you need to collaborate with someone who has done it before, says Shun Yu, X-ray analysis expert at RISE. I haven't visited this particular beamline before, but I have worked with X-ray analysis for 15 years, so after a thorough review we can now run the samples ourselves.

On the last day, everyone is tired, but very satisfied. After late nights and early mornings, the measurements have been conducted successfully. There are now large amounts of data to take home for further analysis, which will provide valuable insights in the continued collaboration with Tree to Textile.

- It has been incredibly cool to come here and see how such a large facility actually works. I feel that I have gained a better understanding of what types of experiments that are possible, what questions could be answered, and I will take that with me in my further work, concludes Åsa.

And what about the Christmas market? Yes, we managed to squeeze in a short visit just before departure. Impressive to say the least. But I wonder if the X-ray experiments weren't a little bit more exciting after all.

Merry X-ray-mas from DESY!

The visit to the synchrotron facility was made possible by funding from Vinnova.

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