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Högskolan Västs forskare på uppdrag för European Spallation Source

University West’s research team on behalf of the European Spallation Source (ESS): Shrikant Joshi, Stefan Björklund, Magnus Sandberg and Jonas Olsson. Pictured here with partners at ESS and Thermal Spraying Engineering, Lund.

“This has been an exciting and unusual assignment for us,” says Shrikant Joshi, Professor of Thermal Spraying at University West. “No other university has done anything like this. We are very satisfied with our efforts, and everything went as planned. We prepared for the mission in several stages over four years.”

In 2016, University West was chosen as a partner for the European Spallation Source (ESS) research facility thanks to our researchers’ cutting-edge expertise in thermal spraying. The assignment was to develop a fluorescent ceramic coating for the facility’s target wheel. This is made from stainless steel, is more than 2 metres in diameter and weighs about 6 tonnes. 

“It took four days to coat 36 rectangular surfaces on the target wheel,” explains University West Development Engineer Stefan Björklund. “The surfaces have been sprayed with six layers of material: undercoat layers and a top layer. Three of the 36 surfaces were sprayed with ESS’s newly developed material, which it is hoped will provide a longer life and a stronger signature. The target wheel is worth approximately SEK 50 million, so it was important to have reliable safety margins to ensure that nothing would go wrong.

“We have learnt a great deal from this assignment. Although the technology and the equipment we used are not particularly advanced, the application is brand new to us as researchers in thermal spraying. The project has given us new knowledge that can be useful in other research projects, says Stefan.” 

Invisible protons become visible

ESS is a new materials research facility that should be operational within two to three years. Here, researchers from all over the world will carry out advanced studies of different materials at atomic and molecular levels. They will gain knowledge that can be used for applications such as developing new materials and improving existing ones.

The facility will act as an enormous microscope where neutrons can be used to analyse samples at atomic and molecular levels. In simple terms, 5 megawatts of powerful proton beams will be fired at very high speed at a target wheel that looks like a rotating wheel. By coating the target wheel with a fluorescent ceramic surface layer, the protons will become visible. The surface layer increases the possibility of obtaining the desired test results, while also extending the lifetime of the target wheel.

“These are extremely powerful proton beams that are shot at the target wheel, so the surface layer has to be very strong,” concludes Professor Shrikant. “The ceramic material we used here is also used at a similar research facility in the US. It is expected to last for four to five years. ESS now wants to focus on developing a new surface layer material with even greater durability, so our collaboration continues.”

The research team has worked closely alongside Thermal Spraying Engineering in Malmö.

Additional ESS components will be coated in the near future. The collaboration with ESS may eventually lead to the creation of a doctoral position to develop a new, even better surface layer material.

Read more about the assignment in an article from 2019 (in Swedish)

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The target wheel is masked before spraying. The surfaces to be sprayed are first blasted to ensure good adhesion.

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Here, the 6-tonne target wheel is being loaded.


ESS is expected to welcome its first researchers within a few years. When fully operational, around 3,000 researchers from around the world will use the facility each year. They may be researchers in such diverse fields as medicine and health, climate and transport, energy and the environment, or food and cultural heritage.

ESS is run by the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), which has 13 member and observer countries. Sweden is the host country together with Denmark, and thus has a major responsibility for developing the facility.

Read article by ESS