. 24/7 Space News .
Exploring superconducting properties of 3-D printed parts
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 19, 2016

illustration only

3-D printing is revolutionizing many areas of manufacturing and science. In particular, 3-D printing of metals has found novel applications in fields as diverse as customized medical implants, jet engine bearings and rapid prototyping for the automotive industry.

While many techniques can be used for 3-D printing with metals, most rely on computer-controlled melting or sintering of a metal alloy powder by a laser or electron beam. The mechanical properties of parts produced by this method have been well studied, but not enough attention has focused on their electrical properties.

Now in a paper appearing this week on the cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, a team of University of Melbourne and University of Western Australia researchers report creating a resonant microwave cavity that they 3-D printed via an aluminum-silicon alloy (Al-12Si). It exhibits superconductivity when cooled below the critical temperature of aluminum (1.2 Kelvin).

"Conductivity is a measure of how easily an electrical current flows through a material, while 'superconductivity' is this measure taken to its extreme," explained Professor Michael Tobar, University of Western Australia node director of the Center for Engineered Quantum Systems. "It's an effect observed within a number of materials, characterized by the complete vanishing of any resistance to the flow of electrical current when cooled below a certain temperature."

Superconducting cavities are useful for numerous areas of physics - from quantum physics to particle accelerators. But designing superconducting cavities is becoming more complex, often involving nonstandard geometries and arrays of resonators, which makes conventional machining more challenging.

So two groups at the University of Western Australia - one led by Professor Tim Sercombe, an expert in materials and 3-D printing, and the other led by Tobar, an expert in engineered quantum systems and novel cavity designs - combined their expertise and launched a pilot study to explore the superconducting properties of 3-D printed parts.

"The physics of superconductivity is well understood, and it has been known for decades that aluminum exhibits superconductivity," Tobar said. "But the 3-D printing process relies on aluminum that's far from pure and it undergoes several processes - atomization, laser melting, furnace annealing, etc. So we wanted to explore whether a range of known superconducting metals could successfully be 3-D printed and retain their desirable electrical property."

A process known as "selective laser melting" (SLM) tends to produce a finished material with a very small grain and, for a number of metals, the critical temperature at which superconductivity occurs can be strongly linked to grain size.

"Materials such as lanthanum, molybdenum, and niobium all respond differently," Tobar said. "Grain size has been observed to both increase and decrease this critical temperature. Superconductors with high critical temperatures are particularly interesting, so this 3-D printing process may have some advantage in reducing grain size. The SLM process may also enable rapid testing of new alloys with varying percentages of elements that haven't been measured before."

Beyond measuring the superconductivity, the group wanted to show that they could do something potentially useful with this technique so they decided to 3-D print a resonant microwave cavity.

"Using a device called a 'vector network analyzer,' we excited electromagnetic modes of resonance at microwave frequencies inside the cavity and measured its quality factor, aka 'Q'. This is a measure of how long injected microwaves are stored within the cavity before being lost. It's directly related to the surface resistance of the cavity walls," he explained.

Through measurements of the Q-factor, the researchers were able to indirectly determine this resistance and show that the material becomes superconducting at 1.2 Kelvin.

This result was "surprising, given the very large concentration of nonsuperconducting silicon within the alloy," Tobar noted. "It may open new possibilities for printing novel cavity configurations."

The team's results are immediately useful - people can now craft a variety of components based on their work.

"Because superconductors expel magnetic fields, magnetic shielding can be printed for experiments," Tobar said. "Also, any cavity experiment requiring a Q-factor on the order of 1 million can benefit from this technology."

For technologies requiring much sharper line-widths and higher Q-factors, according to Tobar, starting materials such as high-purity niobium powder may be ideal.

"There is relatively little in the literature regarding 3-D printed superconductors, so further work must be done to determine more appropriate materials and how to improve the surface finish and resistance of the parts - possibly via heat treatment or chemical polishing/etching," he added.

Next steps? The team wants to attempt 3-D printing cavities with highly pure niobium powder.

"Niobium is an excellent and widely used material for superconducting cavities," Tobar said. "We anticipate that using a very pure metal powder for the SLM process will provide great results."

The article, "A 3D printed superconducting aluminium microwave cavity," is authored by Daniel L. Creedon, Maxim Goryachev, Nikita Kostylev, Tim Sercombe and Michael Tobar. The article will appear in the journal Applied Physics Letters on July 18, 2016

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
American Institute of Physics
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Winning Students Selected for Future Engineers Star Trek Replicator Challenge
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 08, 2016
Making objects in outer space has always been a scene from science fiction, but with 3-D printing NASA is making it science fact. In February 2016, Star Trek and NASA challenged students to engineer the future of food in space. After months of designing and modeling, the winners of the Future Engineers 3-D Printing Star Trek Replicator Challenge were selected by a panel of judges from NASA, the ... read more

Russia to spend $60M in 2016-2018 to fund space voyages to Moon, Mars

Russian Moon Base to Hold Up to 12 People

US may approve private venture moon mission: report

Fifty Years of Moon Dust

Mars Canyons Study Adds Clues about Possible Water

Curiosity Mars Rover Enters Precautionary Safe Mode

Frosty Cold Nights Year-Round on Mars May Stir Dust

Mars Canyons Study Adds Clues about Possible Water

Mathematical framework prioritizes key patterns to accelerate scientific discovery

Sensor Technology Could Revolutionize What You Sleep On

Return to light for underground astronauts

A decade of plant biology in space

Dutch Radio Antenna to Depart for Moon on Chinese Mission

Chinese Space Garbageman is not a Weapon

China to launch its largest carrier rocket later this year

China committed to peaceful use of outer space

New Crew Members, Including NASA Biologist, Launch to Space Station

Russian New Soyuz-MS Spacecraft Docks With ISS for First Time

NASA Highlights Space Station Research Benefits, Opportunities at San Diego Conference

Three astronauts blast off for ISS in upgraded Soyuz craft

SpaceX to launch key 'parking spot' to space station

Russia to Continue Rocket Engine Supplies to US Under Existing Contracts

India launches 20 satellites in single mission

LSU Chemistry Experiment Aboard Historic Suborbital Space Flight

Lush Venus? Searing Earth? It could have happened

Graduate researchers lead exoplanet discoveries

Teenagers at Keele University Discover Possible New Exoplanet

A surprising planet with three suns

Setting the gold standard

Winning Students Selected for Future Engineers Star Trek Replicator Challenge

FAU researchers show how gels develop their solid properties

Learning from the mussel, scientists create a biologically active titanium surface

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.