Oak Ridge National Laboratory



Media Contact: Agatha Bardoel (bardoelaa@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Far beyond cookware

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 6, 2012 — Corning is not just your mother's white and blue cooking and baking dishes anymore, a research project recently at the VULCAN instrument at the Spallation Neutron Source illustrates.

Researchers from Corning Inc. used the VULCAN Engineering Materials Diffractometer to investigate the mechanical properties of ceramic materials for car emission control and filtration devices. The company, headquartered in Corning, N.Y., is one of the world leaders in specialty glass and ceramics. It creates and makes specialty components that enable high-technology systems for electronics, mobile emissions control, telecommunications, and the life sciences.

The VULCAN instrument that is particularly suited for strain analysis under different sample environments is helping the researchers to understand the performance of a ceramic material at the high temperatures required for use in car engines. Instrument scientists Dong Ma and Lu Cai supported the users with the experiment.

"In industry there are research problems that require large scale facilities like the SNS and that can lead to important new technology and widespread benefit to society in a short to medium time period," said Principal Investigator Giovanni Bruno, a research scientist at Corning Inc. He and associate Ying Shi plan to continue their relationship with VULCAN and its instrument scientists on future materials, extending their study to the performance of the material at low temperatures.

VULCAN excels at deformation, residual stress, texture, and microstructure studies. As a time-of-flight diffractometer at the world's most intense pulsed, accelerator-based neutron source, VULCAN provides rapid mapping with a sampling volume of 1 mm3 (a cubic volume of approximately 1/30th of an inch) and a measurement time of minutes for common engineering materials. It can study kinetic behaviors in materials such as ceramics in sub-second times. "Vulcan is ideal for our needs," said Bruno. "First of all, neutrons have strong penetrating power, which allows them to be a unique probe for this kind of study. Then, VULCAN is one of the most modern and flexible instruments in the world for tackling materials science problems with different sample environments.

"The set-up of the instrument here is tailored to engineering applications and our experiments are just not feasible on such instruments as powder diffractometers."

The researchers work at VULCAN was supported by robust data collection, reduction, and analysis, said Bruno.

"That's paramount for us. These services are an important part of the relationship that industrial users want to establish. It is paramount to have a robust scheme for data collection-reduction-analysis that can be easily picked up by the users, if they wish.

"Sample environment control and ease-of-use is another important aspect. On both points the VULCAN team is working hard. There is an ever-improving situation," Bruno said, while conceding that more needs to be done. "We hope that the input we gave them, and our needs, will allow the VULCAN team to refine and perfect the instrument and the service.

"We were impressed by the availability and kindness of the ORNL workers we worked with."

Bruno said industry has many very real research problems that can benefit from large-scale neutron facilities. That makes it important that a good relationship is developed between research and industrial institutions.

"Industrial users are continuously in need of large-scale facilities. Speaking specifically of this experiment, we plan to continue work with neutrons on other materials, if our data show good value, extending our work to the behavior of ceramic materials at low temperatures as well."

"Easy access, user support, and sample environment are what make a neutron facility special," Bruno said. "We had all three."

The researchers previously used the Neutron Powder Diffractometer HB2A at HFIR, where with the help of instrument scientist Ovidiu Garlea, they measured lattice dilation of beta-ecryptite (a ceramic for cooktops and membrane applications).

Corning Inc. funded the work, that is part of a fundamental project to understand the mechanical properties of ceramics for car engine applications such as emission controls. "This work in particular is internal to Corning, but we truly hope that the VULCAN team will collaborate with us in the future.