The Effect of Processing an Aluminum Single Crystal on Its Diffraction Performance

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Aluminum is a very light metal and it can be made to be very strong by alloying it with other elements like copper. Unlike most other metals it does not react with air or water, but is protected from air and water by an oxide film which quickly forms on its surface. Pure aluminum is soft and lacks strength, but it can be toughened by alloying with small amounts of other elements such as copper or magnesium. It can be produced as foil, granules, ingots, pellets, powder, rod or shot.

Single crystal X-ray diffraction is being used more and more in biochemistry to determine the structures of proteins that are undergoing reactions to control the rate at which redox processes proceed. Flash freezing of the crystalline products and subsequent X-ray diffraction can accurately place these “snapshots” along the catalytic cycles of enzymes and provide structural insight into the controlling factors in redox biochemistry.

This article uses a combination of X-ray crystallography and STEM imaging to investigate the effect of processing a pure aluminum single crystal on its diffraction performance. It is shown that mechanical and chemical processes result in the deformation of the crystal lattice causing a distortion in its Bragg angle and diffraction intensity. Using the technique of rocking curve mapping it is also found that this distortion results in a non uniform stress distribution within the crystal. This can be seen on the X-ray diffraction map as different tilt spreads for each of its atomic planes and by STEM imaging as the appearance of sub grain tilt boundaries and regions of dislocation density.