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Title:
FRAME FOR PRESS APPARATUS AND PRESS APPARATUS COMPRISING SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/209855
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A frame for a press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material. The frame has a longitudinal axis and includes a bottom support assembly, a top support assembly, and first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies. Each lateral support assembly is selectively attachable to the bottom and the top support assemblies, and each lateral support assembly is selectively detachable from at least one of the bottom and the top support assemblies to permit access to an interior space defined by the top, bottom, and lateral support assemblies.

Inventors:
ZHAO, Yusheng (546 Via Zaracoza Court, Las Vegas, NV, 89123, US)
NORTON, James (1581 Heritage Drive, Pahrump, NV, 89048, US)
WANG, Liping (336 Glistening Cloud Drive, Henderson, NV, 89012, US)
Application Number:
US2016/038602
Publication Date:
December 29, 2016
Filing Date:
June 22, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE NEVADA SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION ON BEHALF OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS (4505 Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV, 89154, US)
International Classes:
B30B15/04; B01J3/06; B30B11/00; B30B15/00; F16J12/00; F16M1/00
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ANDERSON, Joseph, P., III et al. (Ballard Spahr LLP, 999 Peachtree StreetSuite 100, Atlanta GA, 30309, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A frame for a press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material, the frame having a longitudinal axis and comprising:

a bottom support assembly;

a top support assembly axially spaced from the bottom support assembly relative to the longitudinal axis of the frame; and

first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies, wherein the first pair of opposed lateral support assemblies are spaced apart relative to a first transverse axis that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the frame, wherein the second pair of opposed lateral support assemblies are spaced apart relative to a second transverse axis that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the frame and the first transverse axis, wherein each lateral support assembly is selectively attachable to the bottom and the top support assemblies, wherein the first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies cooperate with the bottom support assembly and the top support assembly to define an interior space for receiving the sample material, and wherein each lateral support assembly is selectively detachable from at least one of the bottom and the top support assemblies to permit access to the interior space.

2. The frame of claim 1, wherein each lateral support assembly has an upper engagement portion configured for selective attachment to the top support assembly and a lower engagement portion configured for selective attachment to the lower support assembly, and wherein upon attachment of the upper engagement portion of a lateral support assembly to the top support assembly and attachment of the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the bottom support assembly, the lateral support assembly is positioned in a closed position.

3. The frame of claim 2, wherein, from the closed position, the upper engagement portion of each lateral support assembly is configured for selective detachment from the top support assembly to position the lateral support assembly in a partially disengaged position, and wherein, in the partially disengaged position, each lateral support assembly is configured for selective pivotal movement relative to the bottom support assembly to provide selective access to the interior space.

4. The frame of claim 2, wherein, from the closed position, the lower engagement portion of each lateral support assembly is configured for selective detachment from the bottom support assembly to position the lateral support assembly in a partially disengaged position, and wherein, in the partially disengaged position, each lateral support assembly is configured for selective pivotal movement relative to the top support assembly to provide selective access to the interior space.

5. The frame of claim 2, wherein, from the closed position, the upper and lower engagement portions of each lateral support assembly are configured for selective detachment from the top and bottom support assemblies to position the lateral support assembly in a fully disengaged position, and wherein, in the fully disengaged position, each lateral support assembly is configured for selective movement relative to the frame to provide access to the interior space.

6. The frame of claim 2, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a first bolt that is configured to selectively attach the upper engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the top support assembly and a second bolt that is configured to selectively attach the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the bottom support assembly.

7. The frame of claim 6, wherein in the closed position, the first and second bolts of the first pair of lateral support assemblies are oriented substantially parallel to the second transverse axis and the first and second bolts of the second pair of lateral support assemblies are oriented substantially parallel to the first transverse axis.

8. The frame of claim 2, wherein the lateral support assemblies of the frame are spaced about a circumference of the frame, and wherein adjacent lateral support assemblies of the frame define openings that are in communication with the interior space.

9. The frame of claim 2, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a piston mounting portion positioned between the upper engagement portion and the lower engagement portion relative to the longitudinal axis of the frame, and wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly is configured to securely engage a piston assembly.

10. The frame of claim 9, wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly comprises a receptacle that is configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly.

11. The frame of claim 9, wherein the top and bottom support assemblies comprise respective piston mounting portions, and wherein the piston mounting portions of the top and bottom support assemblies are positioned in substantial alignment with the longitudinal axis of the frame.

12. The frame of claim 11, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a plurality of spaced plates that extend between the bottom support assembly and the top support assembly.

13. The frame of claim 12, wherein the plurality of spaced plates of each lateral support assembly cooperate to define a perimeter of the lateral support assembly, and wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly is attached to the perimeter of the lateral support assembly.

14. The frame of claim 13, wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly defines a mounting plate positioned proximate the interior space, and wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly comprises a receptacle that projects inwardly from the mounting plate and is configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly.

15. The frame of claim 12, wherein the plurality of spaced plates of each lateral support assembly comprise high-strength steel.

16. The frame of claim 15, wherein the high-strength steel is high-strength aluminum alloy.

17. The frame of claim 12, wherein the top support assembly comprises first and second sets of top plates, wherein the first set of top plates is substantially perpendicular to the second set of top plates, wherein the first and second sets of top plates have respective opposed ends, wherein, at each respective end of the first and second sets of top plates, the spaces defined between the top plates are configured to receive a portion of respective plates of the upper engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly of the frame.

18. The frame of claim 17, wherein the bottom support assembly comprises first and second sets of bottom plates, wherein the first set of bottom plates is substantially

perpendicular to the second set of bottom plates, wherein the first and second sets of bottom plates have respective opposed ends, wherein, at each respective end of the first and second sets of bottom plates, the spaces defined between the bottom plates are configured to receive a portion of respective plates of the lower engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly of the frame.

19. The frame of claim 18, wherein the first set of top plates overlaps and overlies a portion of the second set of top plates, wherein the plates of the second set of top plates have respective inner surfaces, wherein the second set of bottom plates overlaps and overlies a portion of the first set of bottom plates, wherein the plates of the second set of top plates and the first set of bottom plates have respective inner surfaces proximate the interior space, wherein the piston mounting portion of the top support assembly is attached to the inner surfaces of the second set of top plates, and wherein the piston mounting portion of the bottom support assembly is attached to the inner surfaces of the first set of bottom plates.

20. The frame of claim 19, wherein the plates of the upper and lower engagement portions of each lateral support assembly define respective openings, wherein the plates of each end of the first and second sets of top plates define respective openings that are configured for positioning in alignment with the openings of the plates of the upper engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly, and wherein the plates of each end of the first and second sets of bottom plates define respective openings that are configured for positioning in alignment with the openings of the plates of the lower engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly.

21. The frame of claim 20, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a first bolt that is configured for receipt within the aligned openings of the plates of the upper engagement portion of the lateral support assembly and the aligned openings of the corresponding set of top plates of the top support assembly, and wherein each lateral support assembly further comprises a second bolt that is configured for receipt within the aligned openings of the plates of the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly and the aligned openings of the corresponding set of bottom plates of the bottom support assembly.

22. The frame of claim 21 , wherein the first and second bolts comprise high-strength steel.

23. The frame of claim 22, wherein the high-strength steel is high-strength aluminum alloy.

24. A press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material, the press apparatus having a longitudinal axis and comprising:

a frame according to any one of claims 1 -23; and first, second, and third pairs of opposed piston assemblies, wherein the piston assemblies of the first pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the bottom and top support assemblies, wherein the piston assemblies of the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the lateral support assemblies of the first pair of lateral support assemblies, and wherein the piston assemblies of the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the lateral support assemblies of the second pair of lateral support assemblies,

wherein the first pair of opposed piston assemblies are configured for selective axial movement relative to the longitudinal axis of the press apparatus, wherein the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are configured for selective axial movement relative to the first transverse axis, wherein the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are configured for selective axial movement relative to the second transverse axis, and wherein the first, second, and third pairs of opposed piston assemblies are selectively axially moveable to apply a high- pressure load to the sample material within the interior space.

25. The press apparatus of claim 24, wherein each piston assembly comprises a piston ram and a hydraulic cylinder that is operatively coupled to the piston ram and configured to effect axial movement of the piston ram.

26. The press apparatus of claim 24, wherein each pair of opposed piston assemblies is configured to apply a respective axial load independently of the other pairs of opposed piston assemblies.

27. The press apparatus of claim 26, wherein at least one pair of opposed piston assemblies is configured to apply an axial load that is different than the axial load applied by at least one other pair of opposed piston assemblies.

28. The press apparatus of claim 24, wherein each respective piston assembly is configured to apply a respective axial load independently of the other piston assemblies.

29. The press apparatus of claim 28, wherein at least one piston assembly is configured to apply an axial load that is different than the axial load applied by at least one other piston assembly.

30. The press apparatus of claim 24, wherein the longitudinal axis of the press apparatus and the first and second transverse axes intersect at a center point positioned within the interior space, and wherein each piston assembly of the press apparatus is oriented toward the center point.

31. The press apparatus of claim 24, wherein the first pair of opposed piston assemblies are spaced apart by a first distance relative to the longitudinal axis of the press apparatus, wherein the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are spaced apart by a second distance relative to the first transverse axis, wherein the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are spaced apart by a third distance relative to the second transverse axis, and wherein the first distance is greater than the second and third distances.

32. The press apparatus of claim 31 , wherein the second distance is substantially equal to the third distance.

33. A method of using the press apparatus of claim 24 to apply a tri-axial load to a sample material.

Description:
FRAME FOR PRESS APPARATUS AND

PRESS APPARATUS COMPRISING SAME

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority to and the benefit of the filing date of U.S.

Provisional Patent Application No. 62/182,893, filed on June 22, 2015, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

[0002] This invention was made with government support under Grant Number DE- NA0001982, awarded by Department of Energy -National Nuclear Security Administration. The government has certain rights in the invention.

FIELD

[0003] This application generally relates to a frame for a press apparatus, as well as a press apparatus for applying a force to a sample material.

BACKGROUND

[0004] A large volume press (LVP) apparatus is an important tool for high-pressure research and development. An LVP apparatus can create well-controlled pressure/temperature environments that enable scientists to perform tailored stress-strain studies to understand the constitutive/rheological properties of a variety of materials. Some of the most advanced and mature high-pressure techniques, such as plastic deformation study, acoustic velocity measurement, and thermal and electric conductivity measurements, are generally performed using an LVP apparatus. However, current large-volume presses at synchrotron x-ray beamlines are typically equipped with DIA-type anvil modules (e.g., DIA-type cubic anvil modules) to perform quasi-hydrostatic pressure or with deformation-DIA (D-DIA) to simulate deviatoric stresses under high pressures (σι≠σ 2 3 ). The pressure efficiency of a DIA anvil module (e.g., a DIA-type cubic anvil module), in which a uniaxial loading force diverts to the replicated tri- axial/six-anvil acting on a cubic cell assembly in a "synchronized" fashion, is intrinsically low. Additionally, the pressure is mostly limited to below 10 GPa for DIA anvil modules (e.g., DIA- type cubic anvil modules) and to below 15 GPa for D-DIA modules, and higher pressures can only be achieved by adding a second-stage anvil assembly, such as, for example, a Kawai-type 6/8 module. However, such a setup imposes grand technical challenges for in situ experiments in anvil selection (e.g., the need to use x-ray transparent cBN or diamond anvils) and in anvil module mechanics (e.g., the need to leave cut-through windows for the diffraction).

[0005] High-pressure/high-stress deformation experiments are typically conducted in a uniaxial-compression apparatus, such as a toroidal anvil with radial diffraction and replicated "tri-axial" D-DIA. However, there are great needs to explore materials deformation behavior under truly differentiated stresses (σι≠σ 2 ≠σ 3 ) coupled with well-defined experimental parameters, such as temperature, confining pressure P c , pore pressure P p , deviatoric stress σ, texture, porosity, permeability, etc. The plane strain conditions (e.g., simple shear and pure shear) are significant since they correspond more closely to deformation under Earth's crust and mantle conditions, as well as to the industrial stress applications of forging and rolling. For instance, earthquake faulting can only be simulated adequately with proper stress environments and rock types. The existing compression/torsion apparatus for low-pressure applications has been widely used for many decades. More recently, the Drickamer apparatus was modified to allow torsion, and thus large strains, at higher pressure. Current large-volume devices typically study the effect of stress on materials within the range of 3-30 GPa, however, these high- pressure setups with uniaxial loading allow for very limited monitoring and detecting techniques due to constrained access windows.

[0006] Current "large volume" high pressure neutron facilities at ISIS (the pulsed neutron and muon source situated at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom) and the Los Alomos Neutron Science Center (LANSCE) employ a toroidal anvil module (i.e., Paris-Edinburgh press and TAP-98 press), and two opposing anvils squeeze a sample assembly by uniaxial force. As the opposing anvils apply the uniaxial force, the diffraction window between two toroidal anvils gradually becomes smaller as pressure increases. The diffraction optics of such setup has two significant disadvantages: (1) more than 80 percent of the incident neutrons are absorbed by the front loading anvil made of tungsten carbide (WC) and/or poly crystalline diamond (PCD), due to cobalt being used as the binding agent in these hard/superhard anvils; and (2) closure of the diffraction window makes data collection nearly impossible at higher pressures. Further, the severe and uncontrollable deviatoric/shear stress, which is a major shortcoming inherent to the toroidal design, damages anvils and destroys electronic leads of various probes as a result of the extrusion of gasket materials. It makes high P-T neutron diffraction challenging and multi-tech integration very difficult. At SNAP/SNS (Spallation Neutrons and Pressure/Spallation Neutron Source), Diamond Anvil Cells (DACs) with "large" diamond anvils are used, but the sample volume is still way below 1 mm 3 . Small samples require a longer time for data collection, leading scientists to miss many critical phenomena that are important to materials science study, such as kinetics and meso-scale features.

[0007] Accordingly, there is a need in the art for high pressure experimental neutron science systems that overcome the difficulties discussed above and provide comprehensively integrated technologies to tackle multiple scientific issues, on the same sample and with the identical Ρ-σ- T-t conditions. There is a further need in the art for a large-volume tri-axial press apparatus that provides large access windows for improved access and visibility without using conventional bulky frames that are made of low-strength casting steel and steel blocks. There is still a further need in the art for a tri-axial press apparatus that has the above features and is easily used in laboratory and user-facility environments (e.g., synchrotron X-ray and neutron beam lines).

SUMMARY

[0008] Disclosed herein, in one aspect, is a frame for a press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material. The frame has a longitudinal axis and includes a bottom support assembly, a top support assembly, and first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies. The top support assembly is axially spaced from the bottom support assembly relative to the longitudinal axis of the frame. The first pair of opposed lateral support assemblies are spaced apart relative to a first transverse axis that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the frame. The second pair of opposed lateral support assemblies are spaced apart relative to a second transverse axis that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the frame and the first transverse axis. Each lateral support assembly can be selectively attachable to the bottom and the top support assemblies. The first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies can cooperate with the bottom support assembly and the top support assembly to define an interior space for receiving the sample material. Each lateral support assembly can be selectively detachable from at least one of the bottom and the top support assemblies to permit access to the interior space.

[0009] Also disclosed herein is a hydraulic press apparatus that include a frame such as described herein. Further disclosed herein are methods of using the disclosed frame and hydraulic press apparatus.

[0010] Additional advantages of the disclosed frame, apparatus, and methods will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will be understood from the description, or may be learned by practice of the disclosed system and method. The advantages of the disclosed system and method will be realized and attained by means of the elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not restrictive of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate several embodiments of the disclosed system and method and together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the disclosed system and method.

[0012] Figure 1 A is a front perspective view of an exemplary frame as disclosed herein, with the frame being shown in a closed position. Figure IB is a front perspective view of the frame of Figure 1A, with the frame being shown in a partially disengaged position.

[0013] Figure 2 is a cross-sectional perspective view of an exemplary hydraulic press apparatus as disclosed herein.

[0014] Figure 3A is a side elevational view of an exemplary frame as disclosed herein. Figure 3B is a cross-sectional side view of the frame of Figure 3 A.

[0015] Figure 4A is a top elevational view of an exemplary frame as disclosed herein.

Figure 4B is a cross-sectional top view of the frame of Figure 4A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0016] The disclosed system and method may be understood more readily by reference to the following detailed description of particular embodiments and the examples included therein and to the Figures and their previous and following description.

A. Definitions

[0017] It is to be understood that the terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention which will be limited only by the appended claims.

[0018] It must be noted that as used herein and in the appended claims, the singular forms "a", "an", and "the" include plural references unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Thus, for example, reference to "a bolt" includes a plurality of such bolts, and reference to "the bolt" is a reference to one or more bolts and equivalents thereof known to those skilled in the art, and so forth. [0019] "Optional" or "optionally" means that the subsequently described event,

circumstance, or material may or may not occur or be present, and that the description includes instances where the event, circumstance, or material occurs or is present and instances where it does not occur or is not present.

[0020] Ranges may be expressed herein as from "about" one particular value, and/or to "about" another particular value. When such a range is expressed, also specifically

contemplated and considered disclosed is the range from the one particular value and/or to the other particular value unless the context specifically indicates otherwise. Similarly, when values are expressed as approximations, by use of the antecedent "about," it will be understood that the particular value forms another, specifically contemplated embodiment that should be considered disclosed unless the context specifically indicates otherwise. It will be further understood that the endpoints of each of the ranges are significant both in relation to the other endpoint, and independently of the other endpoint unless the context specifically indicates otherwise. Finally, it should be understood that all of the individual values and sub-ranges of values contained within an explicitly disclosed range are also specifically contemplated and should be considered disclosed unless the context specifically indicates otherwise. The foregoing applies regardless of whether in particular cases some or all of these embodiments are explicitly disclosed.

[0021] Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meanings as commonly understood by one of skill in the art to which the disclosed method and compositions belong. Although any methods and materials similar or equivalent to those described herein can be used in the practice or testing of the present method and compositions, the particularly useful methods, devices, and materials are as described. Publications cited herein and the material for which they are cited are hereby specifically incorporated by reference. Nothing herein is to be construed as an admission that the present invention is not entitled to antedate such disclosure by virtue of prior invention. No admission is made that any reference constitutes prior art. The discussion of references states what their authors assert, and applicants reserve the right to challenge the accuracy and pertinence of the cited documents. It will be clearly understood that, although a number of publications are referred to herein, such reference does not constitute an admission that any of these documents forms part of the common general knowledge in the art.

[0022] Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the word "comprise" and variations of the word, such as "comprising" and "comprises," means "including but not limited to," and is not intended to exclude, for example, other additives, components, integers or steps. In particular, in methods stated as comprising one or more steps or operations it is specifically contemplated that each step comprises what is listed (unless that step includes a limiting term such as "consisting of), meaning that each step is not intended to exclude, for example, other additives, components, integers or steps that are not listed in the step.

B. Introduction

[0023] Disclosed herein with reference to Figures 1A-4B is a frame 10 for a press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material. As further described in the following paragraphs, it is contemplated that the disclosed frame can provide advantages over existing press apparatus designs. For example, it is contemplated that the disclosed frame can provide for true tri-axial loading, thereby allowing stress fields to be fully implemented and controlled at high pressure. It is further contemplated that the disclosed frame can provide large access windows, which can be critical to neutron diffraction/ radiography (tomography) optics for large sample volumes and far field detectors, and essential for the integration of multiple probes, such as stress-strain, calorimetric, acoustic, optical, and electro-magnetic measurement probes. It is further contemplated that the disclosed probes can be formed from high-strength alloys that allow the probes to be compact in size and light-weight, thereby providing the frame with portability that is highly desirable for press transport and installation among national facilities and movement of samples during experiments. It is still further contemplated that the frame can permit a fast turnaround for loading and unloading activities while also

accommodating large sample sizes, thereby improving beam efficiency. It is still further contemplated that the frame can be configured for complementary use with various existing modules employed at synchrotron facilities, making the frame (and any press apparatus including the frame) suitable for x-ray work. It is still further contemplated that the frame can be easily assembled and disassembled to allow for fast exchanges between anvil modules.

These and other advantageous characteristics make the disclosed frame (and any press apparatus including the frame) a dynamic tool for next-generation large-volume, high-pressure materials research.

C. Frame for a Press Assembly

[0024] In one aspect, and as depicted in Figure 1A, the frame 10 can have a longitudinal axis 12 and comprise a bottom support assembly 20, a top support assembly 30, and first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d. In another aspect, the top support assembly 30 can be axially spaced from the bottom support assembly 20 relative to the longitudinal axis 12 of the frame 10. [0025] In an additional aspect, the first pair of opposed lateral support assemblies 40a, 40b can be spaced apart relative to a first transverse axis 42 that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 12 of the frame 10. In a further aspect, the second pair of opposed lateral support assemblies 40c, 40d can be spaced apart relative to a second transverse axis 44 that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 12 of the frame 10 and the first transverse axis 42. It is contemplated that the first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can cooperate with the bottom support assembly 20 and the top support assembly 30 to define an interior space 70 for receiving the sample material. In exemplary aspects, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be selectively attachable to the bottom and the top support assemblies 20, 30. In these aspects, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be selectively detachable from at least one of the bottom and the top support assemblies 20, 30 to permit access to the interior space 70. Although shown and described as comprising four lateral support assemblies, it is contemplated that the frame 10 can optionally comprise a different number of lateral support assemblies, such as, for example and without limitation, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, or more lateral support assemblies, provided the lateral support assemblies are selectively detachable from the top and bottom support assemblies as further disclosed herein.

[0026] In a further aspect, and as shown in Figures 1 A-2, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can have an upper engagement portion 46 configured for selective attachment to the top support assembly 30 and a lower engagement portion 48 configured for selective attachment to the bottom support assembly 20. In operation, and as depicted in Figure 1 A, upon attachment of the upper engagement portion of a lateral support assembly to the top support assembly and attachment of the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the bottom support assembly, the lateral support assembly is positioned in a closed position.

[0027] As depicted in Figure IB, from the closed position, the upper engagement portion 46 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be configured for selective detachment from the top support assembly 30 to position the lateral support assembly in a partially disengaged position. In the partially disengaged position, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be configured for selective pivotal movement relative to the bottom support assembly 20 to provide selective access to the interior space 70. Similarly, from the closed position, the lower engagement portion 48 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be configured for selective detachment from the bottom support assembly 20 to position the lateral support assembly in a partially disengaged position. In the partially disengaged position, each lateral support assembly can be configured for selective pivotal movement relative to the top support assembly 30 to provide selective access to the interior space 70. From the closed position, it is further contemplated that the upper and lower engagement portions 46, 48 of each lateral support assembly can be configured for selective detachment from the top and bottom support assemblies 20, 30 to position the lateral support assembly in a fully disengaged position. In the fully disengaged position, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be configured for selective movement relative to the frame (e.g., unrestricted movement away from the frame) to provide access to the interior space. As one will appreciate, in the fully disengaged position, each lateral support assembly can be completely detachable from the remainder of the frame.

[0028] In exemplary aspects, and as shown in Figures 1A-4B, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can comprise a first bolt 50 that is configured to selectively attach the upper engagement portion 46 of the lateral support assembly to the top support assembly 30 and a second bolt 52 that is configured to selectively attach the lower engagement portion 48 of the lateral support assembly to the bottom support assembly 20. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the first and second bolts of the first pair of lateral support assemblies can be oriented substantially parallel to the second transverse axis 44 and the first and second bolts of the second pair of lateral support assemblies can be oriented substantially parallel to the first transverse axis 42.

[0029] In additional aspects, and as depicted in Figures 1A-1B and 4A-4B, the lateral support assemblies 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d of the frame can be spaced about a circumference of the frame. In these aspects, adjacent lateral support assemblies of the frame can define openings 72 that are in communication with the interior space 70.

In further aspects, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can comprise a piston mounting portion 54 positioned between the upper engagement portion 46 and the lower engagement portion 48 relative to the longitudinal axis 12 of the frame 10. In these aspects, and as shown in Figures 2-4B, the piston mounting portion 54 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can be configured to securely engage a piston assembly 110. Optionally, in exemplary aspects, the piston mounting portion 54 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can comprise a receptacle 56 that is configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly 110. [0030] In still further aspects, and as shown in Figures 1A-4B, the top and bottom support assemblies 20, 30 can comprise respective piston mounting portions 21, 31. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the piston mounting portions 21, 31 of the top and bottom support assemblies 20, 30 can be positioned in substantial alignment with the longitudinal axis 12 of the frame 10. In these aspects, and as shown in Figures 2-4B, the piston mounting portions 21, 31 of the bottom and top support assemblies 20, 30 can be configured to securely engage a piston assembly 110. Optionally, in exemplary aspects, the piston mounting portions 21, 31 of the top and bottom support assemblies 20, 30 can comprise respective receptacles 27, 37 that are configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly 110.

[0031] In exemplary aspects, and as depicted in Figures 1A-4B, each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can comprise a plurality of spaced plates 60 that extend between the bottom support assembly 20 and the top support assembly 30. Optionally, in these aspects, the plurality of spaced plates 60 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can comprise high-strength steel, such as, for example and without limitation, a high-strength aluminum alloy.

[0032] Optionally, in some aspects, the plurality of spaced plates 60 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can cooperate to define a perimeter of the lateral support assembly, and the piston mounting portion 54 of each lateral support assembly can be attached to the perimeter of the lateral support assembly. In exemplary aspects, the piston mounting portion 54 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can define a mounting plate 58 positioned proximate the interior space 70. Optionally, in these aspects, it is contemplated that the piston mounting portion 54 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d can comprise a receptacle 56 that projects inwardly from the mounting plate 58 and is configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly 110. It is further contemplated that the piston mounting portions 21, 31 of the top and bottom support assemblies 30, 20 can have a similar configuration, with receptacles 37, 27 extending inwardly from mounting plates.

[0033] In some exemplary aspects, and as shown in Figures 1 A-2, the top support assembly 30 can optionally comprise first and second sets of top plates 32a, 32b. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the first set of top plates 32a can be substantially perpendicular to the second set of top plates 32b. It is further contemplated that the first and second sets of top plates 32a, 32b can have respective opposed ends, with top plates 32a having first and second ends 34a, 36a and top plates 32b having first and second ends 34b, 36b. At each respective end 34a, 34b, 36a, 36b of the first and second sets of top plates 32a, 32b, the spaces defined between the top plates can be configured to receive a portion of respective plates of the upper engagement portion 46 of a corresponding lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d of the frame 10.

[0034] Similarly, in further exemplary aspects, the bottom support assembly 20 can optionally comprise first and second sets of bottom plates 22a, 22b. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the first set of bottom plates 22a can be substantially perpendicular to the second set of bottom plates 22b. It is further contemplated that the first and second sets of bottom plates 22a, 22b can have respective opposed ends, with bottom plates 22a having first and second ends 24a, 26a and bottom plates 22b having first and second ends 24b, 26b. At each respective end of the first and second sets of bottom plates 22a, 22b, the spaces defined between the bottom plates can be configured to receive a portion of respective plates of the lower engagement portion 48 of a corresponding lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d of the frame 10.

[0035] Optionally, in some aspects and as shown in Figure 2, the first set of top plates 32a can overlap and overlie a portion of the second set of top plates 32b, and the second set of bottom plates 22b can overlap and overlie a portion of the first set of bottom plates 22a. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the plates of the second set of top plates 32b and the first set of bottom plates 22a can have respective inner surfaces 38, 28 proximate the interior space 70. It is further contemplated that the piston mounting portion 31 of the top support assembly 30 can be attached to the inner surfaces 38 of the second set of top plates 32b and that the piston mounting portion 21 of the bottom support assembly 20 can be attached to the inner surfaces 28 of the first set of bottom plates 22a. In exemplary aspects, and as shown in Figure 2, it is contemplated that the second set of top plates 32b can be shaped to define a recess or groove that is configured to receive the overlying portion of the first set of top plates 32a. Similarly, it is contemplated that the first set of bottom plates 22a can be shaped to define a recess or groove that is configured to receive the overlying portion of the second set of bottom plates 22b.

[0036] In further aspects, the plates 60 of the upper and lower engagement portions 46, 48 of each lateral support assembly 40a, 40b, 40c, 40d define respective openings 62, the plates of each end of the first and second sets of top plates define respective openings 35 that are configured for positioning in alignment with the openings of the plates of the upper engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly, and the plates of each end of the first and second sets of bottom plates define respective openings 25 that are configured for positioning in alignment with the openings of the plates of the lower engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly. Optionally, in these aspects, each lateral support assembly 60 can comprise a first bolt 50 that is configured for receipt within the aligned openings of the plates of the upper engagement portion of the lateral support assembly and the aligned openings of the corresponding set of top plates of the top support assembly. Additionally, it is contemplated that each lateral support assembly can further comprise a second bolt 52 that is configured for receipt within the aligned openings of the plates of the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly and the aligned openings of the corresponding set of bottom plates of the bottom support assembly. In exemplary aspects, the first and second bolts 50, 52 can comprise high- strength steel, such as, for example and without limitation, high-strength aluminum alloy.

D. Press Apparatus

[0037] In exemplary aspects, and as shown in Figures 2-4B, the frame 10 disclosed herein can be provided as part of a press apparatus, which can be used to selectively apply a tri-axial load to a sample material. In these aspects, the press apparatus can have a longitudinal axis 12 and comprise first, second, and third pairs of opposed piston assemblies 110. The piston assemblies of the first pair of opposed piston assemblies can be respectively operatively coupled to the bottom and top support assemblies 20, 30, the piston assemblies of the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the lateral support assemblies of the first pair of lateral support assemblies 40a, 40b, and the piston assemblies of the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the lateral support assemblies of the second pair of lateral support assemblies 40c, 40d. In use, the first pair of opposed piston assemblies can be configured for selective axial movement relative to the longitudinal axis 12 of the press apparatus, the second pair of opposed piston assemblies can be configured for selective axial movement relative to the first transverse axis 42, the third pair of opposed piston assemblies can be configured for selective axial movement relative to the second transverse axis 44, and the first, second, and third pairs of opposed piston assemblies can be selectively axially moveable to apply a high-pressure load to the sample material within the interior space 70.

[0038] In further exemplary aspects, each piston assembly 110 can comprise a piston ram 112 and a hydraulic cylinder 114 that is operatively coupled to the piston ram and configured to effect axial movement of the piston ram. In these aspects, it is contemplated that the piston ram can be a conventional piston ram that is known in the art.

[0039] Optionally, in exemplary aspects, each pair of opposed piston assemblies can be configured to apply a respective axial load independently of the other pairs of opposed piston assemblies. In one optional aspect, at least one pair of opposed piston assemblies can be configured to apply an axial load that is different than the axial load applied by at least one other pair of opposed piston assemblies.

[0040] Optionally, in exemplary aspects, each respective piston assembly 110 can be configured to apply a respective axial load independently of the other piston assemblies. In one optional aspect, at least one piston assembly 110 can be configured to apply an axial load that is different than the axial load applied by at least one other piston assembly.

[0041] In exemplary aspects, and as shown in Figures 1A, 3A, and 4A, the longitudinal axis 12 of the press apparatus and the first and second transverse axes 42, 44 can intersect at a center point 120 positioned within the interior space 70. In these aspects, it is contemplated that each piston assembly 110 of the press apparatus can be oriented toward the center point 120.

[0042] In further exemplary aspects, and as shown in Figures 3B and 4B, the first pair of opposed piston assemblies can be spaced apart by a first distance 130 relative to the longitudinal axis 12 of the press apparatus, the second pair of opposed piston assemblies can be spaced apart by a second distance 132 relative to the first transverse axis 42, and the third pair of opposed piston assemblies can be spaced apart by a third distance 134 relative to the second transverse axis 44. Optionally, in these aspects, it is contemplated that the first distance 130 can be greater than the second and third distances 132, 134. In further optional aspects, the second distance 132 can be substantially equal to the third distance 134.

[0043] In use, the disclosed press apparatus can be used to apply a tri-axial load to a sample material. In use, it is contemplated that the disclosed press apparatus, including the frame described herein, can extend the stress field to applied bulk strains, i.e., <5 \≠ σ 2 ≠ σ 3 , to fully manipulate material deformations for comprehensive constitutive property studies. It is further contemplated that the use of the disclosed press apparatus to apply a tri-axial load can achieve one or more of the performance goals outlined herein.

E. Exemplary Press Configurations

[0044] In one exemplary aspect, a press apparatus as disclosed herein was provided with an overall loading capacity of 1800 tons, with six hydraulic piston-cylinder rams configured for orthogonal/triaxial loading at a loading capacity of 300-tons for each of the six cylinder rams. The top, bottom, and lateral support assemblies of the exemplary press apparatus were formed from 4" thick high-strength steel plates. The frame was highly compact (1.6m x 1.6m x 2.0m) and light-weight (12 tons), and the frame was configured for the positioning stages of a current neutron beamline. Unlike existing tri-axial presses with bulky frames made of low-strength casting steel and steel blocks, the forging and rolling processes used to make the high strength steel plates and the super-bolt assembly for the disclosed frame are significantly more robust in enhancing strength and capacity. It is contemplated that the disclosed press apparatus can be used together with currently existing tooling, including DIA, D-DIA, Kawai 6/8, Drickamer, and toroidal type anvil modules. It is further contemplated that the disclosed press apparatus can readily adopt piston-cylinder pressure vessels for gas/fluid sample environments and can also be used with inch-sized rock core samples. In use, it is contemplated that the disclosed apparatus can be readily scalable to different loading tonnages such that it can be manufactured to specific working frames (e.g., portable working frames or stationary working frames) and/or to particular beamline settings.

[0045] Optionally, in exemplary aspects, the high-strength steel plates of the frame can comprise high-strength aluminum alloy (40% of steel density, 70% of steel strength; 7075-A1/ 4340-Steel). In these aspects, it is further contemplated that the press apparatus can be highly compact (1.0 m x l .0 m x l .25 m) and light weight (< 1.5 tons) such that it is specifically designed for the positioning stages of current neutron beamlines.

[0046] In further exemplary aspects, it is contemplated that experimental techniques for bench-top laboratory tests and for neutron-/synchrotron- based studies can be integrated with the disclosed press apparatus. Exemplary experimental integrations include deformation, stress- strain, 3D radiography, strain tomography, calorimetry, sound velocity, acoustic emission, rheological flows, electrochemistry, transport properties (e.g., thermal and electric

conductivities), core-flood permeability, gas/fluid solution chemistry analysis, structural phase transition, and novel material synthesis (e.g., superhard, thermoelectric, battery materials, etc.) under extreme Ρ-σ-Τ conditions. It is contemplated that the true tri-axial loading geometry of the disclosed press apparatus can be more efficient in compression than a uniaxial apparatus because there is no diversion in force and no diversion-related frictions. It is further contemplated that the disclosed press apparatus has characteristics that will undoubtedly benefit large-volume deformation research, including, for example: stress field implementation; large openings for diffraction, scattering, and radiography; easy integration of multi-technologies; fast turnaround for loading and unloading during high-P experiments; enhanced beam efficiency; and a compact and readily assembled loading frame that allows easy anvil-module/cylinder- vessel interchanges.

[0047] In use, it is contemplated that the large access openings in the disclosed press apparatus can overcome the optical limitations in diffraction and transmitting windows imposed by existing uniaxial loading presses. Not only does the disclosed press apparatus allow x- ray/neutron illuminations of a much large sample volume of 1~10 5 mm 3 , but the disclosed press apparatus also permits integration of multiple probe techniques. Such integration of probe technologies can allow interrogation of real rock-core samples, by a time-of-flight spallation neutron beam and 2D transmission Bragg-edge diffraction and radiography images with large area far-field detectors. It is contemplated that the spatial resolution of 50 micrometers for neutron image plates can be enhanced to a desired range (e.g., 10 micrometers range), with capillary collimation and newly developed area detectors of high resolution and innovative 3D reconstruction computations that are known in the art. It is further contemplated that the high penetration power of the neutrons will allow large-size field core samples to be studied in situ by diffraction/tomography under pressure/stress and with multi-technique probing.

[0048] It is contemplated that the disclosed press apparatus can be used in conjunction with conventional supporting components, including, for example and without limitation, positioning stages, pumping systems, heating systems, anvil modules, piston-cylinder vessels, and beamline optics (collimation, detectors, shielding, etc.). These components are readily available and conventional in the art. It is further contemplated that the disclosed press apparatus can be operatively coupled to and activated by conventional processing means (e.g., a computer having a processor and a memory coupled to the processor) using standard methods. However, it is understood that such processing means can include software that is specifically designed for control of the disclosed press apparatus (e.g., software that allows for true tri-axial loading control).

F. Exemplary Aspects

[0049] In view of the described frames, press apparatuses, systems, and methods and variations thereof, herein below are described certain more particularly described aspects of the invention. These particularly recited aspects should not however be interpreted to have any limiting effect on any different claims containing different or more general teachings described herein, or that the "particular" aspects are somehow limited in some way other than the inherent meanings of the language literally used therein.

[0050] Aspect 1 : A frame for a press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material, the frame having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a bottom support assembly; a top support assembly axially spaced from the bottom support assembly relative to the longitudinal axis of the frame; and first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies, wherein the first pair of opposed lateral support assemblies are spaced apart relative to a first transverse axis that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the frame, wherein the second pair of opposed lateral support assemblies are spaced apart relative to a second transverse axis that is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the frame and the first transverse axis, wherein each lateral support assembly is selectively attachable to the bottom and the top support assemblies, wherein the first and second pairs of opposed lateral support assemblies cooperate with the bottom support assembly and the top support assembly to define an interior space for receiving the sample material, and wherein each lateral support assembly is selectively detachable from at least one of the bottom and the top support assemblies to permit access to the interior space.

[0051] Aspect 2: The frame of claim 1 , wherein each lateral support assembly has an upper engagement portion configured for selective attachment to the top support assembly and a lower engagement portion configured for selective attachment to the lower support assembly, and wherein upon attachment of the upper engagement portion of a lateral support assembly to the top support assembly and attachment of the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the bottom support assembly, the lateral support assembly is positioned in a closed position.

[0052] Aspect 3 : The frame of aspect 2, wherein, from the closed position, the upper engagement portion of each lateral support assembly is configured for selective detachment from the top support assembly to position the lateral support assembly in a partially disengaged position, and wherein, in the partially disengaged position, each lateral support assembly is configured for selective pivotal movement relative to the bottom support assembly to provide selective access to the interior space.

[0053] Aspect 4: The frame of any one of aspects 2-3, wherein, from the closed position, the lower engagement portion of each lateral support assembly is configured for selective detachment from the bottom support assembly to position the lateral support assembly in a partially disengaged position, and wherein, in the partially disengaged position, each lateral support assembly is configured for selective pivotal movement relative to the top support assembly to provide selective access to the interior space.

[0054] Aspect 5: The frame of any one of aspects 2-4, wherein, from the closed position, the upper and lower engagement portions of each lateral support assembly are configured for selective detachment from the top and bottom support assemblies to position the lateral support assembly in a fully disengaged position, and wherein, in the fully disengaged position, each lateral support assembly is configured for selective movement relative to the frame to provide access to the interior space.

[0055] Aspect 6: The frame of any one of aspects 2-5, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a first bolt that is configured to selectively attach the upper engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the top support assembly and a second bolt that is configured to selectively attach the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly to the bottom support assembly.

[0056] Aspect 7: The frame of aspect 6, wherein in the closed position, the first and second bolts of the first pair of lateral support assemblies are oriented substantially parallel to the second transverse axis and the first and second bolts of the second pair of lateral support assemblies are oriented substantially parallel to the first transverse axis.

[0057] Aspect 8: The frame of any one of aspects 2-7, wherein the lateral support assemblies of the frame are spaced about a circumference of the frame, and wherein adjacent lateral support assemblies of the frame define openings that are in communication with the interior space.

[0058] Aspect 9: The frame of any one of aspects 2-8, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a piston mounting portion positioned between the upper engagement portion and the lower engagement portion relative to the longitudinal axis of the frame, and wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly is configured to securely engage a piston assembly.

[0059] Aspect 10: The frame of any one of aspects 2-9, wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly comprises a receptacle that is configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly.

[0060] Aspect 11 : The frame of any one of aspects 2-10, wherein the top and bottom support assemblies comprise respective piston mounting portions, and wherein the piston mounting portions of the top and bottom support assemblies are positioned in substantial alignment with the longitudinal axis of the frame.

[0061] Aspect 12: The frame of any one of aspects 2-11, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a plurality of spaced plates that extend between the bottom support assembly and the top support assembly. [0062] Aspect 13: The frame of any one of aspects 11-12, wherein the plurality of spaced plates of each lateral support assembly cooperate to define a perimeter of the lateral support assembly, and wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly is attached to the perimeter of the lateral support assembly.

[0063] Aspect 14: The frame of any one of aspects 11-13, wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly defines a mounting plate positioned proximate the interior space, and wherein the piston mounting portion of each lateral support assembly comprises a receptacle that projects inwardly from the mounting plate and is configured to receive a portion of a piston assembly.

[0064] Aspect 15: The frame of any one of aspects 12-14, wherein the plurality of spaced plates of each lateral support assembly comprise high-strength steel.

[0065] Aspect 16: The frame of aspect 15, wherein the high-strength steel is high-strength aluminum alloy.

[0066] Aspect 17: The frame of any one of aspects 12-16, wherein the top support assembly comprises first and second sets of top plates, wherein the first set of top plates is substantially perpendicular to the second set of top plates, wherein the first and second sets of top plates have respective opposed ends, wherein, at each respective end of the first and second sets of top plates, the spaces defined between the top plates are configured to receive a portion of respective plates of the upper engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly of the frame.

[0067] Aspect 18: The frame of any one of aspects 12-17, wherein the bottom support assembly comprises first and second sets of bottom plates, wherein the first set of bottom plates is substantially perpendicular to the second set of bottom plates, wherein the first and second sets of bottom plates have respective opposed ends, wherein, at each respective end of the first and second sets of bottom plates, the spaces defined between the bottom plates are configured to receive a portion of respective plates of the lower engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly of the frame.

[0068] Aspect 19: The frame of aspect 18, wherein the first set of top plates overlaps and overlies a portion of the second set of top plates, wherein the plates of the second set of top plates have respective inner surfaces, wherein the second set of bottom plates overlaps and overlies a portion of the first set of bottom plates, wherein the plates of the second set of top plates and the first set of bottom plates have respective inner surfaces proximate the interior space, wherein the piston mounting portion of the top support assembly is attached to the inner surfaces of the second set of top plates, and wherein the piston mounting portion of the bottom support assembly is attached to the inner surfaces of the first set of bottom plates.

[0069] Aspect 20: The frame of aspect 19, wherein the plates of the upper and lower engagement portions of each lateral support assembly define respective openings, wherein the plates of each end of the first and second sets of top plates define respective openings that are configured for positioning in alignment with the openings of the plates of the upper engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly, and wherein the plates of each end of the first and second sets of bottom plates define respective openings that are configured for positioning in alignment with the openings of the plates of the lower engagement portion of a corresponding lateral support assembly.

[0070] Aspect 21 : The frame of aspect 20, wherein each lateral support assembly comprises a first bolt that is configured for receipt within the aligned openings of the plates of the upper engagement portion of the lateral support assembly and the aligned openings of the

corresponding set of top plates of the top support assembly, and wherein each lateral support assembly further comprises a second bolt that is configured for receipt within the aligned openings of the plates of the lower engagement portion of the lateral support assembly and the aligned openings of the corresponding set of bottom plates of the bottom support assembly.

[0071] Aspect 22: The frame of aspect 21, wherein the first and second bolts comprise high- strength steel.

[0072] Aspect 23 : The frame of aspect 22, wherein the high-strength steel is high-strength aluminum alloy.

[0073] Aspect 24: A press apparatus for selectively applying a tri-axial load to a sample material, the press apparatus having a longitudinal axis and comprising: a frame according to any one of aspects 1 -23; and first, second, and third pairs of opposed piston assemblies, wherein the piston assemblies of the first pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the bottom and top support assemblies, wherein the piston assemblies of the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the lateral support assemblies of the first pair of lateral support assemblies, and wherein the piston assemblies of the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are respectively operatively coupled to the lateral support assemblies of the second pair of lateral support assemblies, wherein the first pair of opposed piston assemblies are configured for selective axial movement relative to the longitudinal axis of the press apparatus, wherein the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are configured for selective axial movement relative to the first transverse axis, wherein the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are configured for selective axial movement relative to the second transverse axis, and wherein the first, second, and third pairs of opposed piston assemblies are selectively axially moveable to apply a high-pressure load to the sample material within the interior space.

[0074] Aspect 25 : The press apparatus of aspect 24, wherein each piston assembly comprises a piston ram and a hydraulic cylinder that is operatively coupled to the piston ram and configured to effect axial movement of the piston ram.

[0075] Aspect 26: The press apparatus of any one of aspects 24-25, wherein each pair of opposed piston assemblies is configured to apply a respective axial load independently of the other pairs of opposed piston assemblies.

[0076] Aspect 27: The press apparatus of any one of aspects 24-26, wherein at least one pair of opposed piston assemblies is configured to apply an axial load that is different than the axial load applied by at least one other pair of opposed piston assemblies.

[0077] Aspect 28: The press apparatus of aspect 24, wherein each respective piston assembly is configured to apply a respective axial load independently of the other piston assemblies.

[0078] Aspect 29: The press apparatus of aspect 28, wherein at least one piston assembly is configured to apply an axial load that is different than the axial load applied by at least one other piston assembly.

[0079] Aspect 30: The press apparatus of any one of aspects 24-29, wherein the longitudinal axis of the press apparatus and the first and second transverse axes intersect at a center point positioned within the interior space, and wherein each piston assembly of the press apparatus is oriented toward the center point.

[0080] Aspect 31 : The press apparatus of any one of aspects 24-30, wherein the first pair of opposed piston assemblies are spaced apart by a first distance relative to the longitudinal axis of the press apparatus, wherein the second pair of opposed piston assemblies are spaced apart by a second distance relative to the first transverse axis, wherein the third pair of opposed piston assemblies are spaced apart by a third distance relative to the second transverse axis, and wherein the first distance is greater than the second and third distances. [0081] Aspect 32: The press apparatus of aspect 31, wherein the second distance is substantially equal to the third distance.

[0082] Aspect 33 : A method of using the press apparatus of any one of aspects 24-32 to apply a tri-axial load to a sample material.

[0083] Those skilled in the art will recognize, or be able to ascertain using no more than routine experimentation, many equivalents to the specific embodiments of the method and compositions described herein. Such equivalents are intended to be encompassed by the following claims.