From Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “Study reveals new structure of gold at extremes”

From Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

July 30, 2019
Breanna Bishop

Three of the images collected at Argonne National Laboratory’s Dynamic Compression Sector, highlighting diffracted signals recorded on the X-ray detector.

Section 1 shows the starting face-centered cubic structure; Section 2 shows the new body-centered cubic structure at 220 GPa; and Section 3 shows the liquid gold at 330 GPa.

Gold is an extremely important material for high-pressure experiments and is considered the “gold standard” for calculating pressure in static diamond anvil cell experiments. When compressed slowly at room temperature (on the order of seconds to minutes), gold prefers to be the face-centered cubic (fcc) structure at pressures up to three times the center of the Earth.

However, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that when gold is compressed rapidly over nanoseconds (1 billionth of a second), the increase in pressure and temperature changes the crystalline structure to a new phase of gold.

This well-known body-centered cubic (bcc) structure morphs to a more open crystal structure than the fcc structure. These results were published recently in Physical Review Letters.

“We discovered a new structure in gold that exists at extreme states — two thirds of the pressure found at the center of Earth,” said lead author Richard Briggs, a postdoctoral researcher at LLNL. “The new structure actually has less efficient packing at higher pressures than the starting structure, which was surprising considering the vast amount of theoretical predictions that pointed to more tightlypacked structures that should exist.”

The experiments were carried out at the Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS) at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory.

ANL Advanced Photon Source

DCS is the first synchrotron X-ray facility dedicated to dynamic compression science. These user experiments were some of the first conducted on hutch-C, the dedicated high energy laser station of DCS. Gold was the ideal subject to study due to its high-Z (providing a strong X-ray scattering signal) and relatively unexplored phase diagram at high temperatures.

The team found that that the structure of gold began to change at a pressure of 220 GPa (2.2 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure) and started to melt when compressed beyond 250 GPa.

“The observation of liquid gold at 330 GPa is astonishing,” Briggs said. “This is the pressure at the center of the Earth and is more than 300 GPa higher than previous measurements of liquid gold at high pressure.”

The transition from fcc to bcc structure is perhaps one of the most studied phase transitions due to its importance in the manufacturing of steel, where high temperatures or stress causes a change in structure between the two fcc/bcc structures. However, it is not known what phase transition mechanism is responsible. The research team’s results show that gold undergoes the same phase transition before it melts, as a consequence of both pressure and temperature, and future experiments focusing on the mechanism of the transition can help clarify key details of this important transition for manufacturing strong steels.

“Many of the theoretical models of gold that are used to understand the high-pressure/high-temperature behavior did not predict the formation of a body-centered structure – only two out of more than 10 published works,” Briggs said. “Our results can help theorists improve their models of elements under extreme compression and look toward using those new models to examine the effects of chemical bonding to aid the development of new materials that can be formed at extreme states.”

Briggs was joined on the publication by co-authors Federica Coppari, Martin Gorman, Ray Smith, Amy Coleman, Amalia Fernandez-Panella, Marius Millot, Jon Eggert and Dane Fratanduono from LLNL, and Sally Tracy from the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory.

See the full article here .


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LLNL Campus

Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is an American federal research facility in Livermore, California, United States, founded by the University of California, Berkeley in 1952. A Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), it is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed and operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS), a partnership of the University of California, Bechtel, BWX Technologies, AECOM, and Battelle Memorial Institute in affiliation with the Texas A&M University System. In 2012, the laboratory had the synthetic chemical element livermorium named after it.
LLNL is self-described as “a premier research and development institution for science and technology applied to national security.” Its principal responsibility is ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons through the application of advanced science, engineering and technology. The Laboratory also applies its special expertise and multidisciplinary capabilities to preventing the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction, bolstering homeland security and solving other nationally important problems, including energy and environmental security, basic science and economic competitiveness.

The Laboratory is located on a one-square-mile (2.6 km2) site at the eastern edge of Livermore. It also operates a 7,000 acres (28 km2) remote experimental test site, called Site 300, situated about 15 miles (24 km) southeast of the main lab site. LLNL has an annual budget of about $1.5 billion and a staff of roughly 5,800 employees.

LLNL was established in 1952 as the University of California Radiation Laboratory at Livermore, an offshoot of the existing UC Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley. It was intended to spur innovation and provide competition to the nuclear weapon design laboratory at Los Alamos in New Mexico, home of the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic weapons. Edward Teller and Ernest Lawrence,[2] director of the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, are regarded as the co-founders of the Livermore facility.

The new laboratory was sited at a former naval air station of World War II. It was already home to several UC Radiation Laboratory projects that were too large for its location in the Berkeley Hills above the UC campus, including one of the first experiments in the magnetic approach to confined thermonuclear reactions (i.e. fusion). About half an hour southeast of Berkeley, the Livermore site provided much greater security for classified projects than an urban university campus.

Lawrence tapped 32-year-old Herbert York, a former graduate student of his, to run Livermore. Under York, the Lab had four main programs: Project Sherwood (the magnetic-fusion program), Project Whitney (the weapons-design program), diagnostic weapon experiments (both for the Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories), and a basic physics program. York and the new lab embraced the Lawrence “big science” approach, tackling challenging projects with physicists, chemists, engineers, and computational scientists working together in multidisciplinary teams. Lawrence died in August 1958 and shortly after, the university’s board of regents named both laboratories for him, as the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.

Historically, the Berkeley and Livermore laboratories have had very close relationships on research projects, business operations, and staff. The Livermore Lab was established initially as a branch of the Berkeley laboratory. The Livermore lab was not officially severed administratively from the Berkeley lab until 1971. To this day, in official planning documents and records, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is designated as Site 100, Lawrence Livermore National Lab as Site 200, and LLNL’s remote test location as Site 300.[3]

The laboratory was renamed Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLL) in 1971. On October 1, 2007 LLNS assumed management of LLNL from the University of California, which had exclusively managed and operated the Laboratory since its inception 55 years before. The laboratory was honored in 2012 by having the synthetic chemical element livermorium named after it. The LLNS takeover of the laboratory has been controversial. In May 2013, an Alameda County jury awarded over $2.7 million to five former laboratory employees who were among 430 employees LLNS laid off during 2008.[4] The jury found that LLNS breached a contractual obligation to terminate the employees only for “reasonable cause.”[5] The five plaintiffs also have pending age discrimination claims against LLNS, which will be heard by a different jury in a separate trial.[6] There are 125 co-plaintiffs awaiting trial on similar claims against LLNS.[7] The May 2008 layoff was the first layoff at the laboratory in nearly 40 years.[6]

On March 14, 2011, the City of Livermore officially expanded the city’s boundaries to annex LLNL and move it within the city limits. The unanimous vote by the Livermore city council expanded Livermore’s southeastern boundaries to cover 15 land parcels covering 1,057 acres (4.28 km2) that comprise the LLNL site. The site was formerly an unincorporated area of Alameda County. The LLNL campus continues to be owned by the federal government.


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