Plastics are all around us—they come in our water bottles, trash luggage, packing materials, toys, containers, and much more. Nearly 300 million tons of plastic are manufactured worldwide annually, but the details of what goes on at the atomic scale in the course of the plastics manufacturing process are still unclear.
Now, a brand new technique advanced by researchers at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with Dow and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, is offering atomic-resolution particulars about magnesium chloride, a material included in the manufacturing of the most typical plastic, polyethylene—and could support to make a path toward sustainable plastics. Their findings have been reported in Advanced Practical Materials.
The scientists used pulsed electron beams in an electron microscope to produce first-of-its-type pictures of magnesium chloride. A steady electron beam quickly damages this delicate, beam-delicate material; however, the new technique permitted the researchers to review it without damage.
“If you had asked me ten years ago if could may use pulsed electron beams to picture beam-delicate materials with atomic resolution, I might not have believed it,” mentioned Christian Kisielowski, lead writer of the study and staff scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, a nanoscale science person facility. “Now it’s attainable, and it has allowed us to review essential materials for the plastics business.”
Kisielowski added that it is a game changer for imaging a variety of supplies which can be usually broken inside an electron microscope. In addition to magnesium chloride, for instance, pulsed electron beams are further used to check delicate membranes and plastics in general.