Acoustic levitation combined with laboratory-based small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) to probe changes in crystallinity and molecular organisation

Adam Milsom, Adam M. Squires, Jack Macklin, Paul Wady, Christian Pfrang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single particle levitation techniques allow us to probe samples in a contactless way, negating the effect that surfaces could have on processes such as crystallisation and phase transitions. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is a common method characterising the nanoscale order in aggregates such as colloidal, crystalline and liquid crystalline systems. Here, we present a laboratory-based small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) setup combined with acoustic levitation. The capability of this technique is highlighted and compared with synchrotron-based levitation-SAXS and X-ray diffraction. We were able to follow the deliquescence and crystallisation of sucrose, a commonly used compound for the study of viscous atmospheric aerosols. The observed increased rate of the deliquescence-crystallisation transitions on repeated cycling could suggest the formation of a glassy sucrose phase. We also followed a reversible phase transition in an oleic acid-based lyotropic liquid crystal system under controlled humidity changes. Our results demonstrate that the coupling of acoustic levitation with an offline SAXS instrument is feasible, and that the time resolution and data quality are sufficient to draw physically meaningful conclusions. There is a wide range of potential applications including topics such as atmospheric aerosol chemistry, materials science, crystallisation and aerosol spray drying.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17519-17525
Number of pages7
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number25
Early online date30 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 May 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering

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