New version Dr. Ken Kelton of Washington University in St. Louis is preparing to make studies of the atomic structures of metallic liquids at the Spallation Neutron Source on the NOMAD (Nanoscale-Ordered Materials Diffractometer) beam line.
Part of the NESL (Neutron ElectroStatic Levitation) facility built by Dr. Kelton and his team includes an aluminum Atlas vacuum chamber with aluminum window. The window is neutron transparent allowing scattered neutrons to be measured with minimal absorption and very low background noise which are two qualities deemed crucial for the studies.
Since neutrons can also be used to determine how atoms move in liquids, Dr. Kelton and his team will be able to tie the structures to the dynamics. Much of this is aimed at fundamental science, checking some theoretical predictions and predictions from computer simulations. However, the outcome could have some significant practical implications.
Ultimately, it may tell the researchers how liquids turn into glasses on cooling and, specifically, identify reasons why some metallic liquids easily form metallic glasses ushering in the design of new metallic glasses which are new emerging materials for technological applications.
Apple, for example, is working with Liquidmetal, a company that makes metallic glasses, Liquidmetal, to use these materials in consumer electronics likely cell phones and computer cases.
If you would like detailed information on this subject, Kevin Derendorf, PhD., a colleague at Washington University, wrote his dissertation on neutron scattering studies. Happy reading!