3D printed spherical environmental chamber for neutron reflectometry and grazing-incidence small-angle neutron scattering experiments


In neutron scattering on soft matter, an important concern is the control and stability of environmental conditions surrounding the sample. Complex sample environment setups are often expensive to fabricate or simply not achievable by conventional workshop manufacturing. We make use of state-of-the-art 3D metal-printing technology to realize a sample environment for large sample sizes, optimized for investigations on thin film samples with neutron reflectometry (NR) and grazing-incidence small-angle neutron scattering (GISANS). With the flexibility and freedom of design given by 3D metal-printing, a spherical chamber with fluidic channels inside its walls is printed from an AlSi10Mg powder via selective laser melting (SLM). The thin channels ensure a homogeneous heating of the sample environment from all directions and allow for quick temperature switches in well-equilibrated atmospheres. In order to optimize the channel layout, flow simulations were carried out and verified in temperature switching tests. The spherical, edgeless design aids the prevention of condensation inside the chamber in case of high humidity conditions. The large volume of the sample chamber allows for high flexibility in sample size and geometry. While a small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) measurement through the chamber walls reveals a strong isotropic scattering signal resulting from the evenly orientated granular structure introduced by SLM, a second SANS measurement through the windows shows no additional background originating from the chamber. Exemplary GISANS and NR measurements in time-of-flight mode are shown to prove that the chamber provides a stable, background free sample environment for the investigation of thin films.
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