Anastasiia Mikhalchan to showcase the latest achievements in gas-phase synthesis and 1D materials at CERN

This week, Dr. Anastasiia Mikhalchan will present research from IMDEA Materials’ Multifunctional Nanocomposites research group group on the gas-phase synthesis and properties of 1D materials, which could be used under higher luminosity conditions for beam instrumentation and quality control, at the Low Density Materials for Beam Instrumentation Workshop at CERN Meyrin (Switzerland) – Prévessin (France). Dr. Mikhalchan will also serve as part of the event’s Scientific Committee. 
Question: Firstly, Anastasiia, can you tell us a little about what you are going to be presenting at this week’s workshop?

Answer: Of course. I am going to give an overview of the floating catalyst CVD synthesis process we use in the MNG group to produce high-performance nanostructured materials, such as fibres and nanotextiles of carbon nanotubes. As recently published in our review paper in Nanoscale, this synthesis route offers advantages in scalability and ultra-fast growth rates, and is universal for the synthesis of nanomaterials of different chemistries, not only carbon. I will also present the latest summary of the mechanical and electrical properties we achieved in our group, and will highlight the genuine flexibility and toughness of such materials governed by their network structure and alignment.

Question: The use of the term “1D materials” in your presentation description caught my attention. I think most people are familiar with objects or materials in 2 or 3D, but 1D sounds quite strange to me. Can you give a brief explanation of what you mean by 1D materials in relation to your research?

Answer: By 1D we mean the nanotubes or nanowires – high aspect ratio nanoparticles, which means their length could be orders of magnitude larger than their diameter. For example, CNTs, silicon or silicon carbide nanowires synthesised by our group. They are synthesised in the gas phase reaction and directly assemble into macroscopic three-dimensional networks, which we collect as fibres with different diameters and composition, or as textiles with different areal density, from nearly transparent, to thick fabrics suitable for structural composites, batteries, and other electronic devices.

Question: As I understand it, these materials could be used by CERN in higher luminosity conditions for beam instrumentation and quality control. What is the real-world impact of that in terms of carrying out scientific research? 

Answer: One could imagine that the quality control and precision of accelerator beams are of paramount importance, in particular, at CERN, which is the world-largest particle accelerator thanks to the 27-kilometre-cicumference Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. Among other tasks, the transverse beam profile monitoring is particularly challenging, especially nowadays, when physicists would like the beam to be progressively smaller and more intense. Recently, many projects at CERN have been focused on the challenge of significantly increasing the beam energy and intensity, while at the same time, reducing the beam size, for example, HiRadMat (High Radiation for Material) experimental line with the possibility to irradiate the targets with proton beams at 440 GeV/c. Scientists who support the beam infrastructure use special devices called wire-scanners to measure the transverse beam profiles, by moving a thin wire across the beam.

Question: And how does that necesity relate to your research?

Answer: The main problem here is that since the 1980s, the wires (very thin fibres) used have been conventional carbon fibres, or gold coated tungsten, and those materials have almost reached their limits for very high beam energies that CERN is targeting. So, CERN’s idea is to try other novel materials, such as the carbon nanotubes fibres we produce at IMDEA Materials, as the new generation of fast wire-scanners. We started collaboration with the Beam Instruments division at CERN some time ago to try our CNT fibres, and we hope to strengthen our collaboration in the coming future. CERN has several thousand beam instruments, so ensuring their quality is very important for all the research projects going on at the whole CERN accelerator complex. It is also our great pleasure to be helping develop the new generation of materials which may lead to the undertaking of even more complex experiments at CERN.

Question: How does this particular project fit within the wider research framework of the MNG group at IMDEA Materials?

Answer: It fits very well with our research direction in the MNG group. For instance, we have expertise in manufacturing CNT fibres of different molecular composition, knowledge of their structure, and possibilities for the in-depth characterisation of CNT fibres before and after beam irradiation. That’s what we did in collaboration with CERN last year, when they first used the fibres produced at IMDEA Materials in scanning equipment. The wires or fibres in the scanners are subject to high mechanical and thermal stresses and vibrations during the scan, which induce the failure of the fibre. CNT fibres exhibit much higher intrinsic toughness and damage tolerance than conventional carbon fibres, which are brittle due to their crystal structure, so we believe our materials would provide some advantages for beam instruments. In saying that, this is totally new area of research, and many aspects are yet unknown, such as the best structure of the fibre, packing of tubes, their alignment etc., all of which could be critical for such applications.

Finally Anastasiia, this workshop is being organised by the CERN Beam Instrumentation Group responsible for designing, building and maintaining the instruments that allow observation of the particle beams and the measurement of related parameters for all CERN? How does it feel to be invited to be part of such an incredible scientific event at CERN?

Answer: It’s the great pleasure and, truly, the honour for me to be invited, and to be able to attend this event at CERN. I’m looking forward to presenting our work, and well as meeting colleagues who work directly “at the heart” of CERN and who are looking to overcome new challenges from the point of accelerator engineering, beam instrumentation, thermophysical and mechanical analysis and simulations.

Thank you very much Anastasiia for speaking with us today!

Publication reference:

Gas-to-nanotextile: high-performance materials from floating 1D nanoparticles” by Isabel Gómez-Palos,  Miguel Vazquez-Pufleau,  Richard S. Schäufele, Anastasiia Mikhalchan, Afshin Pendashteh, Álvaro Ridruejo and  Juan J. Vilatela

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