Jun 28, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from the Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences at Belgium’s Université catholique de Louvain have created a number of 3D printed jars for ball-milling experiments. The low-cost jars are optimized for reduced background/absorption and higher angular resolution.

Mechanochemistry, the coupling of mechanical and chemical phenomena on a molecular scale, is an important area of materials science. Unlike traditional “wet” chemistry, mechanochemistry generally involves the coupling of substances when they are in their solid state. Forget test tubes: mechanochemists often need to grind up their test subjects with a ball mill grinder.

But while mechanochemistry is incredibly important for learning about mechanical and chemical phenomena, it does have its drawbacks. For one, characterization of reaction mixtures is less accessible than it is in wet chemistry solutions. This means that chemists often need to carry out in situ observations of mechanochemical reactions using methods such as X-ray diffraction and Raman spectroscopy.

With these methods, solid-state reactions can be tracked directly, with phase transitions and other material transformations revealed during synthesis—the period when the substances are combined. This synthesis often takes place in a ball mill jar, a chamber where the grinding takes place.

Unfortunately, when X-rays go through such a jar, the diffraction patterns often present a high “background”—unwanted signal readings—due to the scattering from the thick walls of the jar. Probing a large sample area that covers the entire jar also results in broad diffraction peaks, while diffraction on the milling balls produces an extra complexity.

A group of researchers from the Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences at Belgium’s Université catholique de Louvain decided to address the problems of jar-based ball-milling experiments head on.

In a paper that has been published in the Journal of Applied Crystallography, these researchers explain how they used 3D printing to create new jars with modified wall thickness, a thin-walled sampling groove, and a two-chamber design. The researchers say these 3D printed jars “allow for a reduced background/absorption and higher angular resolution, with the prospect for use at lower-energy beamlines.”

There are other benefits to 3D printing the jars too. They are purportedly more resistant to solvents compared with standard acrylic jars, while 3D printing allows for low-cost fast production whenever needed.

The researchers involved in the project—Nikolay Tumanov, Voraksmy Ban, Agnieszka Poulain, and Yaroslav Filinchuk—believe that their 3D printed jars represent a useful tool for mechanochemistry. It surely won’t be the last time we see 3D printing used in the field.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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