X-ray check-in time: Ultrahigh vacuum suitcase

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  • Published: Dec 15, 2015
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: X-ray Spectrometry
thumbnail image: X-ray check-in time: Ultrahigh vacuum suitcase

UHV with a bullet

Portable ultrahigh-vacuum sample storage system for polarization-dependent total-reflection fluorescence x-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy Credit: AIP/Takakusagi et al)

A special ultrahigh vacuum suitcase built by researchers in Japan, will enable researchers to securely transport air-sensitive scientific samples from one advanced laboratory facility to another. Specifically, it will allow samples to reach distant light sources around the world for XAFS studies.

The high-speed train to Tsukuba, Japan, has seen a new type of passenger recently, scientists with not only their overnight bags but also a suitcase with a built-in ultrahigh vacuum chamber to store air-sensitive clusters of platinum metal. These particular clusters might one day lead to more efficient catalytic converters for vehicle exhausts and for electrochemical reactions, but for now, it is the suitcase itself that is of most interest as it the only way the scientists can get their air-sensitive clusters from their laboratory to the light source facility where they can carry out the polarization-dependent total reflection fluorescence (PRTF) X-ray absorption fine-structure spectroscopy (XAFS) experiments they need to do to help them figure out how the clusters interact with the surface of different materials and how their sizes affect their properties.

Station to station

Facilities that can carry out XAFS measurements are few and far between so a transportable storage unit for sensitive samples was needed. Researchers from Toyota Central R&D Labs, Hokkaido University, and AVC Co. collaborated to develop the ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) suitcase and report details in the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A.

The suitcase was designed to be accessible by two different sample manipulation systems. "The sample can receive a flag-style sample plate via a pincer-grip type of wobble stick and a 'key' type of tip-transfer rod," explains lead author on the paper Yoshihide Watanabe who is program manager of Toyota's Quantum Controlled Catalysis Program at the Frontier Research Center in Aichi, Japan. Inside the suitcase, the samples are protected from vibration during transportation and can be held under vacuum conditions for at least 72 hours by a battery-powered ion pump. Given the expediency and efficiency of the Japanese rail network this is probably long enough for that country at least.

As many as three samples can be stored and transported at the same time, Watanabe says. "Our vertically arrayed design minimizes the required diameter," he points out. "And our compact sample holder 'stacker' enables a reduction in the size of the portable UHV sample storage system for public transportation."

City to city

Samples for a test run were prepared at Toyota Central R&D Labs in Nagakute with the intention of carrying out PRRF-XAFS measurements at the Photon Factory at the Institute of Materials Structure Science in Tsukuba, Japan, some 400 kilometres away. "It's possible to travel with the system by high-speed train, bus, and taxi, but it would probably be difficult to travel with it via airplane because of the high level of security checks before boarding," Watanabe adds. "But it's a great advantage to be able to carry three samples at once via high-speed train to reduce the travel time involved."

The group's suitcase system could be used to transport all kinds of sensitive samples to distant facilities where synchrotron X-ray or particle beam experiments can be done. The system's "key and keyhole" sample manipulating system is equipped with a 90-degree rotation lock supported by a coiled spring, enables flexible manipulation and then quick, easy release of the sample holder. "We anticipate that our portable UHV sample storage system with a key and keyhole sample manipulating system will find widespread use as a standard system for UHV XAFS measurements - enabling experiments at any light source in the world," Watanabe adds.

Related Links

J Vac Sci Technol 2016, A34, 023201: "Portable ultrahigh-vacuum sample storage system for polarization-dependent total-reflection fluorescence x-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy"

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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