Using the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's microscope, Judy Kim and colleagues looked at the microstructure and properties of reactive multilayer foils -- also known as nanolaminates -- with 15-nanosecond-scale resolution.
"This is the first time that a detailed study of these reactive nanolaminates has exposed what is happening in the self-propagating high-temperature synthesis zone," Kim said.
She said observing short-lived behavior -- how a chemical reaction, structural deformation or phase transformation occurs -- is key to understanding many basic phenomena at the heart of chemistry, biology and materials science.
"Direct real-space observations of phase transformations on the nanosecond scale have allowed us to relate the formation mechanism in reactive multilayer foils to binary alloy solidification," Kim said. "This conclusion is based upon transient features that could not have been found using any other technique."