One of the greatest challenges of our generation is the sustainable storage of environmentally harmful by-products of energy production processes. High-level nuclear wastes and CO2 produced from the energy sectors are examples of these by-products. To ensure the environmentally benign storage of these by-products in a solid form, it is essential to understand the chemical and morphological features of the materials in which these by-products are immobilized. With recent advancements in X-ray scattering, it is now possible to map the structure and the microstructure of architected and natural materials across four decades in spatial scale. Multiscale X-ray scattering that encompasses ultrasmall-, small-, and wide-angle X-ray scattering (USAXS/SAXS/WAXS) allows us to probe material features in the spatial ranges of ~5 μm–10 nm, ~100–1 nm, and ~1 nm–0.2 Å, respectively. This connection is illustrated using two specific examples. The first example involves determination of the changes in the porosity and the structure of beidellite, a swelling clay used in the repository design for nuclear waste disposal, on heating to temperatures above 1000°C. The second example illustrates the changes in the nanoscale porosity of heat-treated serpentine after reacting with CO2 to form magnesium carbonate.
Part of the book: Small Angle Scattering and Diffraction