New X-ray beamline instrument brings unique capabilities to WSU – WSU Insider


An X-ray beamline with a unique imaging source is being installed at Washington State University’s Dodgen Research Facility. The instrument, valued at more than a million dollars, will allow researchers to study a range of materials at the nanometric and atomic scale. It is also possibly the only X-ray line in the world to be housed in the same facility as a nuclear research reactor, making it easier to study irradiated materials.

The 20-foot-long instrument sends out a beam of light that can penetrate through a sample which then scatters the beam onto a detector. This allows scientists to see the nanostructures and atomic characteristics of the material. WSU’s X-ray beamline can analyze a wide range of organic and inorganic materials, from plant leaves to irradiated heavy elements to nanoparticles used in smart medicine.

“It’s a very versatile instrument,” said Liane Moreau, assistant professor of chemistry at WSU. “He has some pretty unique abilities. It is the only one currently in the United States that has an imagery source. This allows us to take images and get data from a specific location on a sample and correlate it to different locations and structures the sample might have.

Unlike a high-powered microscope that requires dried samples, the X-ray beamline can measure liquids and dissolved materials in solution. Researchers can also modify the environment, such as changing the temperature or humidity, or introducing a gas, and see how the material reacts in real time.

The machine can collect data on atomic and nanoscale structures of interest to a wide range of fields, including biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine and pharmaceutical sciences. The researchers encouraged other WSU professors to explore how this instrument could help them in their research.

“We’re very open to working with people from different disciplines,” said Brian Collins, associate professor of physics. “We have a team of teachers who are well versed in radiography techniques. We worked with materials ranging from the lightest to the heaviest elements.

Moreau, Collins and chemistry professor Jim Boncella helped secure the necessary funding to bring the beamline to WSU, raising $850,000 from funds granted through the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust and university support. Xenocs, the company that makes the machine, also gave WSU a rebate and provided the unique imagery source, worth more than $110,000, for free in exchange for help testing its capabilities.

Before receiving this instrument, WSU researchers who wanted to make these types of measurements had to book time and ship equipment to one of five available synchrotrons housed in Berkeley and Palo Alto, California; Chicago; and Long Island and Ithaca, New York. Moreau, who works with radioactive elements with short half-lives, also encountered additional regulatory hurdles in getting samples analyzed.

Now, researchers will look to WSU for access to that X-ray beamline. Corey Hines, director of WSU’s nuclear science center at the Dodgen Research Center, has already received requests from researchers at the American nationals. He also looks forward to more WSU researchers now using the capabilities of the Dodgen Research Facility.

“The Nuclear Science Center is a user facility for WSU faculty to conduct cutting-edge nuclear science research,” he said. “The facility is growing rapidly and it will only get better with the exciting new features this instrument offers.”


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