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Methods for neutron diffraction studies on hydride superconductors and other metal hydrides...

by Bianca Haberl, Mary-ellen Donnelly, Jamie J Molaison, Malcolm Guthrie, Reinhard Boehler
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Journal of Applied Physics
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High-pressure neutron diffraction is an extremely useful technique in the quest for making and understanding novel hydride superconductors. Neutron diffraction can be used to directly determine elemental stoichiometries and atomic positions of many light elements such as hydrogen or deuterium, even in the presence of heavy elements such as rare-earth metals. Here, we report on the current status and ongoing developments on high-pressure neutron diffraction for hydride superconductors and other metal hydrides with a special focus on current advancements at the Spallation Neutrons and Pressure (SNAP) beamline of the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For broader context, an overview of high-pressure neutron diffractometers and pressure cells is included together with insight into critical sample considerations. There, attention is given to the requirements for powdered hydride samples and the need for deuterium rather than hydrogen. Additionally, the advantages of angular access and data representation as possible at SNAP are described. We demonstrate the current capability for high-pressure neutron diffraction on two different samples created via hydrogen gas loading, specifically pure deuterium and nickel-deuteride. The deuterium example highlights the usefulness of adding sample materials that facilitate the formation of a good powder while the nickel-deuteride example demonstrates that atomic deuterium positions and stoichiometry can be directly determined. Both examples highlight the importance of large scattering apertures. These enable investigation of the data resolved by scattering angle that is needed to identify parasitic peaks and background features. Finally, future directions beyond current high-pressure neutron powder diffraction are also discussed.