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01/20/2022 | News

World’s bright­est labor­at­ory X-ray source in­stalled

The MetalJet E1+ 160 kV is the world's brightest source for generating X-rays that can be installed in laboratories and the first in its power class in a university in Europe. It is the key component of a large-scale project to observe the production of components in the 3D printing process down to the atomic scale and in real time.

The new X-ray source will further intensify research and development in the field of materials technology at the University of Kassel, opening up entirely new possibilities. With a power of 1000 watts, it generates high-energy and extremely bright X-ray radiation. With this bundled X-ray beam, materials can be X-rayed with the smallest possible resolution of 50 X 50 micrometres. What is special about this is that the required X-rays are generated at a liquid anode made of an indium-gallium alloy, which is hit by accelerated electrons at high speed. A pump continuously circulates the liquid indium-gallium alloy in a circuit system to dissipate the heat generated. This and other special technical solutions allow the high intensity of the radiation and also permanent operation of the facility. "This allows us to observe in realtime what happens in our samples during the experiment, for example how liquid metal solidifies or how components react under stress, and when exactly the finest microscopic cracks form in the material," describes Dr.-Ing. Alexander Liehr, head of the X-ray fine structure analysis working group.

The X-ray source, which costs about 500,000 euros, was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of a large-scale project. In a next step, the high-precision X-ray fine structure analysis is to be combined with a unique system for 3D printing. The new X-ray source will make it possible to observe live at the smallest level in 3D printing how metal layers build up and solidify micrometre by micrometre. "We receive huge amounts of data live: high-resolution radiographic and diffraction images from the X-ray source, but also information on temperature changes in the material via other sensors. If we then change parameters such as the exact composition of the materials or process speed, we can see in real time how the properties also change in 3D printing," explains Prof. Dr.-Ing. Niendorf, head of the Department of Metallic Materials. This will enable the researchers to develop new materials, make the production of components more sustainable and efficient in the future, improve printing processes, realise higher-performance components and also detect and correct defects more quickly - in metals, plastics and hybrid materials.