In situ neutron diffraction studies of single crystals and powders during microwave irradiation†
Microwave dielectric heating has become an important method in chemical synthesis and materials processing over the past 15 years, and in the case of the reactions in solutions, there is a well-developed understanding of heating mechanisms and their influence on reaction rate. In the solid-state however, there is much less clarity, despite the advantages to be gained from better insight into the way in which such electromagnetic radiation may couple directly to charge carriers, accelerating reactions in good conductors. The related issue of the influence of microwave irradiation on biological systems, in particular, proteins, and the way in which this may pose hazards to health is similarly poorly understood despite the obvious relevance this may have to the current debate on the influence of electromagnetic radiation, in particular, microwave transmission, on human health. One reason for the paucity of fundamental insight in both fields is because most work has been performed with microwave equipment whose design is derived from that of a domestic oven, and which is not ideal for in situ studies of microwave driven processes. We have been developing new methods of irradiating a variety of solid samples while measuring structural parameters through a range of diffraction techniques, and describe apparatus that will enable X-ray or neutron scattering measurements to be performed on powders or single crystals under microwave irradiation with controlled power level. We also describe preliminary studies of a single crystal of the molecular solid aspirin, and a powder of the microwave-susceptible ionic material BaTiO3, during microwave irradiation.