18 July 2024
3D Printed Collimator Revolutionizes Neutron Science

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Exploring the Innovative ‘Frankenstein Design’ for 3D Printed Neutron Collimators

Neutron experiments conducted by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have introduced a novel approach to overcoming challenges in 3D printing neutron collimators. These experiments led to the development of a “Frankenstein design,” which involves creating collimators with multiple body parts rather than attempting to print them as a single piece. This innovative design approach has proven to be effective in addressing the complexities associated with neutron scattering experiments.

Neutron collimators play a crucial role in neutron scattering, a technique used to study energy and matter at the atomic level. Similar to X-rays, neutrons are utilized in these experiments to investigate the properties of materials. Collimators act as funnels that help direct neutrons towards a detector after they interact with sample materials. Their primary function is to reduce the interference caused by stray neutrons that scatter off various components within the experimental setup, such as sample holders or high-pressure cells.

Challenges in 3D Printing Neutron Collimators

The need for custom-designed collimators arises from the increasing trend towards using smaller samples in more complex experimental environments. This results in a higher number of unwanted neutrons that do not interact with the sample and create background noise in the data. To address this issue, the Oak Ridge team aimed to produce 3D printed collimators that could efficiently filter out these unwanted neutron signatures during different types of experiments.

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Collaborating with experts at Oak Ridge’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the team utilized a 3D printing method called binder jetting. This additive manufacturing process allows for the creation of parts and tools from powdered materials, layer by layer, based on a digital design. However, one of the key challenges faced by the team was scaling up the size of the printed collimator while maintaining precision in the final product.

The Evolution of the ‘Frankenstein Design’ for Collimators

Initially, the team attempted to print a one-piece collimator with continuous blades, but scaling up the design led to significant challenges in maintaining accuracy. This prompted the development of a new concept—the “Frankenstein design”—which involved printing multiple smaller parts and assembling them manually into a complete collimator. By using smaller pieces, the team could address issues related to material contraction rates during the printing process, leading to more uniform cooling and reduced cracking.

The alternate-blade design adopted for the collimator featured progressively tighter blades, enhancing the performance of the collimator in filtering out unwanted neutrons. This configuration allowed for a higher blade density with reduced channel sizes, overcoming limitations associated with size in 3D printing. The team optimized the collimator’s performance through advanced computational simulations, ensuring that the design was production-ready without the need for further engineering.

Implications and Future Directions in Neutron Science

The successful implementation of the 3D printed, alternate-blade collimator on the Spallation Neutron and Pressure beamline demonstrated the effectiveness of the new design approach. The collimator’s alignment proved to be crucial for enhancing the signal-to-noise ratio in neutron experiments, highlighting the importance of precision in manufacturing and positioning collimators on beamlines.

By combining modeling and advanced manufacturing techniques, the study has paved the way for customizing neutron scattering instrumentation and advancing neutron science. The insights gained from this research not only address specific challenges in neutron experiments but also open up possibilities for further refinement and enhancement through improved manufacturing quality control and alignment procedures. The innovative “Frankenstein design” exemplifies the power of creative solutions in overcoming technical hurdles and driving progress in scientific research.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.ornl.gov 2. https://www.sciencedirect.com 3. https://www.nature.com

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Neutron scattering, Additive manufacturing, Collimator

Neutron scattering
Neutron scattering, the irregular dispersal of free neutrons by matter, can refer to either the naturally occurring physical process itself or to the man-made experimental techniques that use the natural process for investigating materials. The natural/physical phenomenon is of elemental importance in nuclear engineering and the nuclear sciences. Regarding the...
Read more: Neutron scattering

3D printing
3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model. It can be done in a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined or solidified under computer control, with the material being added together (such as plastics,...
Read more: 3D printing

A collimator is a device which narrows a beam of particles or waves. To narrow can mean either to cause the directions of motion to become more aligned in a specific direction (i.e., make collimated light or parallel rays), or to cause the spatial cross section of the beam to...
Read more: Collimator

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