Neutrons: The Science of Everyday Life

bicycle frames

Research with neutrons gives us knowledge that improves our everyday lives, our health and our environment. It is at the same time a necessary component to solving society's grand challenges.

Discoveries Large and Small

Neutron science is the science of everyday life. It is important for the development of new and better computer chips, cosmetics, detergents, textiles, paints, fuels, drugs, batteries and plastics. Industrial drivers such as fuel cells, superconductors, innovative structural engineering, climate, transportation and food technologies, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and clean energy, are all dependent on advances in the capacity and capability of the science of neutron scattering.

The many thousands of products created and improved through materials science using neutrons are essential to our basic quality of life and our economic growth.

At the same time, research conducted using neutrons is puzzling out some of the most longstanding and complex problems that science and medicine have ever confronted. Among these are the as yet unknown mechanisms of how DNA sustains life at the molecular level, and the precise position, structure and function of the proteins that determine its structure. The solutions to some of the most daunting life science challenges of the next century rely on the superior mapping and three-dimensional modelling of proteins that the more powerful and sophisticated neutron instruments at ESS will provide.

Dramatic Improvements for the Study of Organic Molecules

The special instruments at ESS promise many times improvement of measuring performance compared with what is possible today. This dramatic improvement will be particularly important for the study of complex molecules, such as organic molecules.
With neutrons, researchers are able to study the building blocks of the human body, particularly single hydrogen atoms, which play a highly important role. Thus researchers can gain new insights about:

  • The DNA molecules and proteins that control aging and cancer
  • How the skeleton is built up during childhood and how osteoporosis causes it to deteriorate, thereby creating remedies for skeleton diseases and changes caused by the ageing process
  • Organ and bodily functions like muscles, teeth and digestion
  • How to construct better medical implants that are more durable and entirely bio-compatible
  • Biological materials with complex structures, such as blood and cell membranes
  • Gene therapy
  • Bio-sensors
  • Carbohydrates and cellulose

New knowledge in these areas makes it possible to develop new techniques and more effective treatments and medicines.

More Efficient Medicines with Fewer Side Effects

How are medications received by the body? How do they work inside the body?
By studying the proteins and enzymes that create various diseases, researchers can contribute to the development of new medicines and treatments. Pharmaceutical researchers need to obtain a good understanding of the proteins found in the human body, since they act as receptors for the molecules of the medication. In other words, the proteins are the ”key holes” that the medicines – the keys – shall ”unlock.”
Therefore, if scientists can study the details of different proteins in the human body, they can more easily create medicines that match those proteins.
Today, scientists have, by means of neutrons and X-ray experiments, started the journey towards a cure for Alzheimer’s, through studying the structure in those different substances, which affect the brain and its nerves. Neutrons have also helped researchers to create drug delivery systems that are time-released in specific parts of the body, create isotopes used in hospitals and find natural antibiotics for the treatment of multi-resistant bacteria.

The high-performance that ESS can offer will be important to efficient structure based medicine development. With brighter neutron beams, scientists will be able to study enzymes and proteins in their natural environment and with greater precision, and will also be able to study biological systems and processes that change over time. Researchers will have a new powerful tool to study the properties and functions of proteins and cell membranes, and how they integrate with, for example, medicines.

Understanding how proteins, enzymes and other biological material work on the molecular and atomic level is one of the keys to understanding the mysteries of life and the body. Neutrons are very well suited for studying the dynamics of individual atoms and molecules.

Read more about the impact of ESS on life science research.

Research using neutrons is particularly suitable when sampling sensitive materials, such as biological samples, which are easily damaged when other measurement techniques are used. Neutron scattering is also the only method with which the researcher can study individual hydrogen atoms, which play a particularly important role in biological systems.

Fuel Cells Driven by Hydrogen

The search for new technology to transition to a future economy with significantly less carbon dioxide emissions than today is a great challenge of our time. Here, hydrogen gas plays a central role. Neutron sources like ESS are the best tools researchers have to study elusive hydrogen-based structures in detail.

Fuel cells are central to the development of the future hydrogen economy. Fuel cells are a type of “battery”, which must be continuously filled with hydrogen gas in order to function. When hydrogen gas and oxygen react, this is converted into electricity and heat. The only exhaust gas is pure water. Presently, fuel cells are being developed for many different purposes, from home heating and powering vehicles, to operating laptops and telephones.

Solar Power

Neutrons can examine and optimise new materials such as thin layers of polymers used for photovoltaics. This is a part of the effort to develop cost-effective, reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly solar power.

Fuels and Catalysts

At the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) in the USA, research is being conducted to extract ethanol from cellulose-rich materials like grass and agricultural waste. Today ethanol for environmentally friendly vehicles is extracted mainly from cereals like corn, which leads to competition for crops intended as food. The fuel sources of tomorrow will be built upon our knowledge of the properties of materials on the atomic level.

Better Batteries

Telephone batteries that last longer and can be charged many more times are one possibility. With neutrons it is possible to follow how lithium ions migrate within the battery. Lithium is very difficult to see with today’s technology. But with a powerful neutron source it is possible to follow how the material’s structure changes when lithium is moved, and better materials can be produced.

Climate Technology

Materials research at ESS can help to develop energy solutions that do less damage to the climate. Methane gas stored in ice in the shallow earth constitutes an enormous energy resource, but it is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Today, scientists cannot analyse the crystal chemistry in the substances that contain the gas, but with ESS that will be possible.

Read more about the impact of ESS on energy research.

Neutrons enable the potential for developing more environmentally friendly materials and processes. From better plastics to carbon capturing materials, the road to a better future may be driven with hydrogen fuels developed with neutron science.

Superconducting Materials

Superconducting materials allow the transport of electricity without any losses, which means large energy gains. Research with neutrons is one of the most fundamental tools for understanding how magnetic and superconductive materials function. This in turn can help create solutions for improved electric conductivity, magnets that have new properties, and technology for transportation that uses resources more efficiently.
The origin of superconductivity in so-called unconventional superconductors exhibiting the highest superconducting transition temperatures is still unknown. Neutron scattering experiments have shown that in those materials magnetism and superconductivity are interwoven. Understanding the microscopic details better and eventually learning to create materials for room temperature superconducting would offer enormous macro-economic savings.

Stronger and Lighter Materials

The grand challenges for today's materials – to be lighter, stronger, cheaper, more environmentally friendly – require extensive knowledge of the materials' properties, beginning on the atomic scale. The information is needed by materials scientists to be able to tailor the properties of new materials for optimum performance. Neutron scattering techniques are unique for studying materials in that they help us not only understand the atomic structure of materials, but also their behavior under different conditions. This has helped to understand materials from a wide range of applications, from shampoos and turbine blades to magnetic storage materials.

LEDs in Household Lamps

Gallium nitride is a new material that was developed with the help of neutron research. It is most commonly used in LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), e.g. the display for mobile telephones.

New research has developed more powerful LEDs as a light source that is increasingly replacing the types of energy-saving lamps used today. This means huge benefits in the form of lower energy consumption, significantly longer burn time and less heat emission.

Faster and More Powerful Computers

Giant magnetoresistance (GMR) is one example of how basic research has been directly used in materials development. Research in this area was awarded with the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics. You can already find an application of this knowledge in your own computer hard drive. GMR technology has accelerated the development of smaller, more powerful computers.

Neutrons are one of the most powerful tools used to study the magnetic properties of materials at the atomic level, thus providing the foundation for the development of GMR systems. To create a GMR system, it is necessary to build structures out of materials that have the thickness of just a few atomic layers. GMR has both opened the door to the technology of spintronics, electronics based on magnetic polarisation, and has become one of the driving forces behind nanotechnology.

Why do mobile phone and computer technology develop so fast? Where do new, smart lighting technologies, such as LEDs, come from? New products full of advanced materials surround us in our everyday life. We often take these for granted, but behind each new material, there is much research.

As a result of fundamental research, scientists and industries have obtained knowledge that has improved many of the products in our daily lives, such as mobile phones, computers, lighting and nano-materials. In the future we will be able to tailor completely new materials according to the needs of different industries. In the future, we are sure to see materials with entirely new physical properties. New technologies and tools will make it possible to create custom materials based on industry requirements that have been unthinkable until now.

Some of the technologies that today’s scientists are particularly interested in are superconducting materials and stronger and lighter materials.

High-Tech Paint

Paint must be thick enough to adhere to a paintbrush, yet thin enough to be spread over the intended surface. With neutrons, it is possible to develop materials with exactly these characteristics. Researchers can also study how to mix water and oil in order to design water-based paint that is water-repellent once it dries and can then stand exposure to wind, dirt and water for as much as 20 years.

Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Agents

Cleaning and laundering are complicated chemical processes. Zeolite is a mineral that, among other things, provides the foundation of many detergents. One of its properties is its ability to soften hard water. With neutrons, it is possible to study how this material behaves and reacts in water. ESS can help bring about more environmentally friendly detergents that provide the same or better results.

Sunscreen and Cosmetics

By looking at how molecules move and behave in a liquid, it is possible to develop creams and cosmetics with new and improved characteristics, such as more effective sunscreens and pain relief creams.

Food Science

Enzymes can control the speed of chemical processes. In order to develop new, healthier foods, without affecting the flavour, neutrons are used to study enzyme structures and what happens during chemical processes.

Ordinary products like soap, face creams, detergents and lubricants are sometimes technological miracles. They are often comprised of complex liquids that can change their form and properties depending on how the molecules in the material are arranged.

Surface chemistry is an interdisciplinary science based on chemistry and physics. It plays an important role in materials research. It is possible to study such wide-ranging topics as the lubricants used in engineering, the design of pharmaceutical products, and paper products that have different types of characteristics. Common to each is that the surface properties play a fundamental role in how the product will function. 

In order to make a liquid substance adhere to a material, it is necessary to understand the tiniest structures that exist within the material. For example, how can oil be distributed to protect the inside of an engine at both high and low temperatures, without just ”running off”?

The answer can be found by studying the molecules and customising these so-called complex liquids. In such studies, neutrons provide powerful tools. In particular, complex materials represent an area where ESS will have the greatest potential to contribute with new discoveries. This technology is also used to help understand and develop other chemical products, particularly oil-based and water-based mixtures, such as creams and soap solutions.

A multitude of day-to-day products have complex structures that are often explored with neutrons. The mechanics behind their properties can be used for developing other complex fluids and soft materials within the manufacturing industry. Today neutrons have contributed to the development of a large range of products, such as plastics, cleaners, cosmetics and synthetic fibres for the textile industry.

How has science changed our lives? How will neutrons help us meet the challenges of the future? And what's it like to work in an international science facility under construction? This talk will take you on a trip through archaeology, life science and magnetism, and end up at a huge construction site.

A full accounting of the impact of neutron research in Europe on science, technology, Industry and society, published by the European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA). 

The Big Questions

Using the technology at ESS, the next generation of neutron scientists will advance ongoing investigations into the boundless complexities and unknowns of the human brain, its neural networks, and the workings of memory. Such studies will further the rapid progress of applying these discoveries to the nano-circuitry of machines, and advancing the increasingly sophisticated science of artificial intelligence.

Research at ESS has implications even for some of the most fundamental dilemmas in physics and philosophy. Promising investigations into the structure and origin of the universe, and others attempting to reconcile incompatible, and yet functional, theories of gravity and quantum physics, suggest the possibility of breakthroughs in human knowledge that go beyond our wildest imaginings. ESS is an essential investment in the future health of Europe's people and society.

Neutron Science at ESS

Enabling scientific excellence is at the core of the ESS mission. The European Spallation Source will provide experimental possibilities to researchers from academia as well as industry. More in-depth scientific information, as well as feature stories on research at ESS and its partner institutions, can be found in the Science & Instruments area of the website. Explore ESS through the eyes of its scientific community via the four Science Focus Areas that drive the development of this world-leading facility:

Life Science & Soft Condensed Matter

ESS will enable some areas of life science, medical and pharmacological research to investigate with neutrons for the first time.

Read More

Particle Physics

A fundamental part of ESS. The Standard Model is not what it used to be.

Read More

Chemistry of Materials, Magnetic & Electronic Phenomena

Some of the most exciting discoveries in a generation are being made with neutron science.

Read More

Neutrons in the News

Institut Laue-Langevin

Enzyme associated with stomach cancer and osteoporosis seen in detail for the first time with neutron crystallography

•    The enzyme PKG II is associated with stomach cancer causing 754,000 deaths worldwide  
•    The activation process for the enzyme has been looked at in exceptional detail with neutron crystallography 
•    Understanding such mechanisms will enable future drug development for stomach cancer and osteoporosis 


The enzyme PKG II (protein kinase G II – a cyclic guanosine monophosphate dependent kinase) plays an important role in human health, but can increase the risk of diseases like stomach cancer and osteoporosis if not activated. Stomach cancer kills 754,000 people globally each year  and osteoporosis, which causes weakened bones, affects over 200 million people worldwide , so researchers are keen to understand how this enzyme...

Nature Communications

Absence of dynamic strain aging in an additively manufactured nickel-base superalloy

Dynamic strain aging (DSA), observed macroscopically as serrated plastic flow, has long been seen in nickel-base superalloys when plastically deformed at elevated temperatures.


Here we report the absence of DSA in Inconel 625 made by additive manufacturing (AM) at temperatures and strain rates where DSA is present in its conventionally processed counterpart. This absence is attributed to the unique AM microstructure of finely dispersed secondary phases (carbides, N-rich phases, and Laves phase) and textured grains. Based on experimental observations, we propose a dislocation-arrest model to elucidate the criterion for DSA to occur or to be absent as a competition between dislocation pipe diffusion and carbide–carbon reactions.



Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Supersonic waves may help electronics beat the heat

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory made the first observations of waves of atomic rearrangements, known as phasons, propagating supersonically through a vibrating crystal lattice—a discovery that may dramatically improve heat transport in insulators and enable new strategies for heat management in future electronics devices.


“The discovery gives you a different way to control the flow of heat,” said lead author Michael Manley of the paper published in Nature Communications. “It provides a shortcut through the material—a way to send the energy of pure atomic motion at a speed that’s higher than you can with phonons [atomic vibrations]. This shortcut may open possibilities in heat...

Physics World

Liquid mysteries

It’s easy to assume there’s nothing new to learn about liquids. John Proctor explains just how weird liquids can be at high pressures and why this work could shed light on planetary interiors


When I read scientific papers, I often end up pondering questions that are – in the grand scheme of things – mere footnotes and details. Quite simply, I lose sight of the big issues. Fortunately, one benefit of teaching physics to undergraduates, as I do, is that it lets me take a broader perspective. Take the way that textbooks deal with the fundamental differences between the states of matter. While these works contain neat and cohesive descriptions of gases and solids, many struggle with liquids.


Consider David Tabor’s classic book Gases,...

Indiana University

Using a 'magneto-gravitational trap,' IU physicists measure neutrons with unprecedented precision

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—A study led in part by physicists at the Indiana University Center for the Exploration of Energy and Matter could provide new insight into the composition of the universe immediately after the Big Bang—as well as improve calculations used to predict the life span of stars and describe the rules that govern the subatomic world.



The study, published May 11 in the journal Science, reports a highly accurate way to measure the decay rate of neutrons. An author on the study, Chen-Yu Liu, is a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics.


"This is a significant improvement compared to previous experiments," said Liu, who is a leader on the UNCtau experiment, which uses neutrons...

Université Grenoble Alpes

The apparent inner calm of quantum materials

Physicists from UNIGE, University Grenoble Alpes, CEA and CNRS in Saclay and Grenoble have been the first to confirm a theory on topological phase transitions, a field of research initiated by the 2016 Nobel Prize-winners in physics.


Transitions between different phases of matter are part of our day-to-day lives: when water freezes, for example, it passes from liquid to solid state. Some of these transitions may be of a different kind, resulting from so-called topological excitations that force all the particles to act in unison. Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the CEA,CNRS and UGA have been studying BACOVO – a one-dimensional quantum material unknown to the general public – in collaboration with scientists from...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutrons Provide Insights into Increased Performance for Hybrid Perovskite Solar Cells

Neutron scattering has revealed, in real time, the fundamental mechanisms behind the conversion of sunlight into energy in hybrid perovskite materials. A better understanding of this behavior will enable manufacturers to design solar cells with increased efficiency.


The multi-institutional team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Hunan University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln used photoluminescence measurements, along with neutron and x-ray scattering, to study the relationship between the material’s microscopic structure and its optoelectronic properties. By examining the material under varying degrees of temperature, the researchers were able to track atomic structural changes and...

Spinach used in neutron studies could unearth secret to stronger plant growth

Plants, algae, and other organisms produce the RuBisCO enzyme to convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into energy-rich molecules, like glucose, that form carbohydrates and other organic carbon compounds essential to life on earth.


This catalytic process is called "carbon fixation." A better understanding of the specific activity involved when RuBisCO kick-starts this chemical reaction could be instrumental to enhancing the enzyme's efficiency and facilitating faster plant growth—a desirable result that could increase crop yields while conserving fertilizer and natural resources.


To this end, researchers from Uppsala University are using neutrons at the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to...


UK lab helps reveal secrets of 3000 year old Egyptian vases

Scientists have used neutron techniques at the UK’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source to non-invasively investigate the contents of two containers from the tomb of a married couple who walked the streets of ancient Egypt in 1400BC. This was at a time when Thebes in Egypt was the largest city in the World.


Jump forward 3,500 years to 2018 and UK scientists and their Italian colleagues were able to create reconstructions of the inner parts of both vases to understand their structure and elemental composition without touching, damaging or taking samples from either artefact.


The two vases were discovered in 1906, when the Italian archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli and the Inspector of Antiquities at Luxor, Arthur Weigall, opened the door of...

Unlocking the secrets of ice

The complex properties of water and ice are not well understood but a team from UCL and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source have revealed new information about a phase of ice called ice II.


Given that water makes up 60% of our bodies and is one of the most abundant molecules in the universe, it's no wonder that water is known as the "matrix of life."


There are many different forms of ice – all of which vary significantly from the ice you'd find in your freezer. Ice takes on many different forms depending on the pressure at which it developed.


As water freezes its molecules rearrange themselves, and high pressure causes the molecules to rearrange in different ways than they normally would. The many distinct phases of ice can be...

Neutrons help demystify multiferroic materials

Materials used in electronic devices are typically chosen because they possess either special magnetic or special electrical properties. However, an international team of researchers using neutron scattering recently identified a rare material that has both.


In their paper published in Advanced Materials, the team, including researchers from the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), illustrates how this unique marriage is achieved in the multiferroic material BiMn3Cr4O12. Many materials are known for just one characteristic magnetic or electrical property, or for having the ability to change shape, but multiferroics contain some combination of these attributes.


Multiferroics are typically divided into...

Neutrino experiments look to reveal big answers about how these fundamental particles interact with matter

Except in horror movies, most scientific experiments don't start with scientists snooping around narrow, deserted hallways. But a tucked-away location in the recesses of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) provided exactly what Yuri Efremenko was looking for.


Efremenko, an ORNL researcher and University of Tennessee at Knoxville professor, is the spokesperson for the COHERENT experiment, which is studying neutrinos. The team uses five particle detectors to identify a specific interaction between neutrinos and atomic nuclei. The most abundant particles in the universe, neutrinos are extremely light and have no electric charge. They interact very little with other particles. In fact, trillions pass...


Condensed Matter Physics: magnetic field drives spins to a liquid

A sufficiently large magnetic field suppresses long-range magnetic order in α-RuCl3, leaving a disordered state with a gapped continuum spectrum of magnetic excitations, similar to that expected for the famous Kitaev quantum spin liquid.


An international team led by Stephen E. Nagler from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA performed time-of-flight neutron scattering to study low energy magnetic excitations of α-RuCl3. They observed that the application of a sufficiently large magnetic field to this material suppressed spin waves associated with the long-range order, and drove it to an unusual excited state.


By comparison with calculations, these results are consistent with the Kitaev quantum spin liquid state in a magnetic...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutrons Reveal the Wild Weyl World of Semimetals

“Weyl semimetals are kind of the Holy Grail in physics right now,” said Alan Tennant, chief scientist at ORNL’s Neutron Sciences Directorate. “Some of these types of materials are showing quantum behavior at room temperature, which is precisely what has to be achieved to provide a path toward quantum electronics.”


The observation of an abnormal state of matter in a two-dimensional magnetic material is the latest development in the race to harness novel electronic properties for more robust and efficient next-generation devices.


Neutron scattering at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) helped a multi-institutional team led by Tulane University investigate a graphene-like strontium-manganese...


Neutrons turn detective to help us understand how electrons behave in metals

An international team of scientists have utilised the UK’s neutron and muon source, the ISIS facility, to study the structure of electrons in useful materials – such as those with superconductivity or magnetism.


In certain materials, electrons interact with each other very strongly – these are known as strongly correlated electron systems. These materials can have useful properties such as superconductivity or magnetism, and scientists have been studying how such electrons behave for more than five decades to try to unlock their secrets.


The experimental techniques often used to study electrons, such as photoemission spectroscopy, have limitations, but until recently it was not thought to be feasible to measure the electronic...


The search for dark matter: Axions have ever fewer places to hide

If they existed, axions - one of the candidates for particles of the mysterious dark matter - could interact with the matter forming our world, but they would have to do this to a much, much weaker extent than it has seemed up to now. New, rigorous constraints on the properties of axions have been imposed by an international team of scientists responsible for the nEDM experiment.

The latest analysis of measurements of the electrical properties of ultracold neutrons published in the scientific journal Physical Review X has led to surprising conclusions. On the basis of data collected in the nEDM (Electric Dipole Moment of Neutron) experiment, an international group of physicists - including the Cracow-based scientists from the Institute of...

Quanta Magazine

Neutron Lifetime Puzzle Deepens, but No Dark Matter Seen

Two methods of measuring the neutron's longevity give different answers, creating uncertainty in cosmological models. But no one has a clue what the problem is.


When physicists strip neutrons from atomic nuclei, put them in a bottle, then count how many remain there after some time, they infer that neutrons radioactively decay in 14 minutes and 39 seconds, on average. But when other physicists generate beams of neutrons and tally the emerging protons — the particles that free neutrons decay into — they peg the average neutron lifetime at around 14 minutes and 48 seconds.


The discrepancy between the “bottle” and “beam” measurements has persisted since both methods of gauging the neutron’s longevity began yielding results in the 1990s...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutron study of glaucoma drugs offers clues about enzyme targets for aggressive cancers

New insights from neutron analysis of glaucoma drugs and their enzyme target may help scientists design drugs that more effectively target aggressive cancers.  


A team of researchers led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutron macromolecular crystallography to investigate the different states of three glaucoma drugs as they interact with the targeted enzyme, human carbonic anhydrase II (hCA II).


“Our goal was to observe differences in the presentation of three clinically used glaucoma drugs while they are bound to the hCA II enzyme,” said Andrey Kovalevsky, an instrument scientist at ORNL and a senior co-author of the study. “By looking at how well these drugs target hCA II in protonated, neutral and...

Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering

Transferrable Skills: Materials Research Fosters Analytical Skills That Reach Well Beyond The Laboratory

By studying soft and biological materials with sophisticated tools like neutron beams, graduate students in biophysics are able to develop advanced analytical skills that can be transferred to a wide range of professional careers in all areas of Canada’s economy.


Choose science” has been the message to young people and their parents from Canada’s Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan. That’s because science not only generates valuable knowledge, it also develops confidence and skills in the young people who participate in the scientific process.


This is especially true of fundamental science, which both challenges and inspires. Some young people are stirred by the prospect of making important scientific discoveries and will stay in...

The effects of pressure on the energy landscape of proteins

Protein dynamics is characterized by fluctuations among different conformational substates, i.e. the different minima of their energy landscape. At temperatures above ~200 K, these fluctuations lead to a steep increase in the thermal dependence of all dynamical properties, phenomenon known as Protein Dynamical Transition.


In spite of the intense studies, little is known about the effects of pressure on these processes, investigated mostly near room temperature.


We studied by neutron scattering the dynamics of myoglobin in a wide temperature and pressure range. Our results show that high pressure reduces protein motions, but does not affect the onset temperature for the Protein Dynamical Transition, indicating that the energy...

Science & Technology Facilities Council (UK)

Studying precious pearls using novel neutron imaging technique

A new, non-destructive neutron technique has been used to study the inner form of one of mankind’s most precious biological objects – the pearl.


This technique could be used to help differentiate between the highly valuable naturally-formed pearls from the less desirable farm-cultured variety.


This imaging study looked at the aptly-named soufflé pearl, which is so-called because of its empty core.


Using the IMAT instrument at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, every square centimetre of pearl sample was bombarded with 5.9 million neutrons per second. A powerful camera was then used to map the neutrons and build a detailed tomographic reconstruction of the pearl.

Scientific American

Missing Neutrons May Lead a Secret Life as Dark Matter

This may be the reason experiments can’t agree on the neutron lifetime, according to a new idea


Neutrons shouldn’t be all that mysterious. Found inside every atomic nucleus, they may seem downright mundane—but they have long confounded physicists who try to measure how long these particles can live outside of atoms. For more than 10 years researchers have tried two types of experiments that have yielded conflicting results. Scientists have struggled to explain the discrepancy, but a new proposal suggests the culprit may be one of the biggest mysteries of all: dark matter.


Scientists are pretty sure the universe contains more matter than the stuff we can see, and their best guess is that it takes the form of invisible particles. What...

Hydration structure of reverse osmosis membranes studied via neutron scattering and atomistic molecular simulation

Reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are becoming popular as energy saving and environmentally friendly materials for the desalination of water.


Toward the rational design of RO membranes, we performed contrast-variation neutron scattering measurements and atomistic molecular dynamics (MD) simulations on polyamide/water systems with various water contents and deuteration ratios. The experimental and computational structure factors showed good agreement for all the systems examined.


The structure of the water-rich polyamide/water system obtained from MD calculation showed that the water clusters are well connected to each other, and a relatively large number of water molecules are present at a distance over 3 Å from the polyamide. The...

IFE Norway

IFE and the JEEP II-research-reactor is an important ally for the ESS

Prof. Andreas Schreyer, The Director of Science at ESS visited the JEEP II-reactor at Kjeller, Norway on January the 23rd. Prof. Schreyer underlined the importance of the JEEP II-reactor. “The JEEP II-reactor produces neutrons, which we need” said Prof. Schreyer. “IFE and the JEEP II-rector are important. The Institute develops instruments which are vital to the ESS. IFE is a recognized partner and we look forward to a long lasting cooperation”.


The Director of Science seemed pleased as he was shown the reactor and it's facilities. Prof. Schreyer was visiting IFE in conjunction with a seminar on the possibilities with neutrons at the European Spallation Source and the upgrade of instrumentation at the JEEP II-reactor.


The seminar...

University of California - Riverside

Using High Pressure to Study Material’s Properties and Innovate Multi-functional Materials

Have you ever wondered how researchers are able to understand and discover different properties of materials?  Prof. Chen Li’s research group in the Mechanical Engineering Department is using high pressure as a tool to (1) understand the physics of fundamental excitations in the materials; (2) tune the properties of existing energy materials; and (3) engineer innovative multi-functional materials through high pressure synthesis or other indirect approaches.


Professor Li’s group uses diamond anvil cells by methods of Raman, X-ray scattering, and neutron scattering to create extreme high pressure up to 100 Gigapascal. This allows the study of lattice dynamics, magnons, and transport properties under extreme conditions. The high pressure...

Physics World

Targeted infection control

Medical devices that incorporate hydrogels into silicone rubber could release antibiotics into areas where they are needed most. Erik Brok, Caroline Boudou, Martin Alm and Peter Thomsen describe how neutron scattering is helping researchers to understand and optimize the structure of these silicone-hydrogel networks.


Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are one of the biggest challenges in modern healthcare. Within this wider problem, urinary-tract infections associated with catheter use are a particular concern: in 2001 a US study found more than half a million cases each year, accounting for approximately 40% of all HAIs (Int. J. Antimicrob. Agents 17 299). Such infections often stem from biofilms that form when a catheter is inserted...

Nature: Materials

Thermochromic halide perovskite solar cells

Smart photovoltaic windows represent a promising green technology featuring tunable transparency and electrical power generation under external stimuli to control the light transmission and manage the solar energy.


Here, we demonstrate a thermochromic solar cell for smart photovoltaic window applications utilizing the structural phase transitions in inorganic halide perovskite caesium lead iodide/bromide. The solar cells undergo thermally-driven, moisture-mediated reversible transitions between a transparent non-perovskite phase (81.7% visible transparency) with low power output and a deeply coloured perovskite phase (35.4% visible transparency) with high power output.


The inorganic perovskites exhibit tunable colours and...

Physica Scripta

The hydrogen anomaly problem in neutron Compton scattering

Neutron Compton scattering (also called 'deep inelastic scattering of neutrons', DINS) is a method used to study momentum distributions of light atoms in solids and liquids. It has been employed extensively since the start-up of intense pulsed neutron sources about 25 years ago.


The information lies primarily in the width and shape of the Compton profile and not in the absolute intensity of the Compton peaks. It was therefore not immediately recognized that the relative intensities of Compton peaks arising from scattering on different isotopes did not always agree with values expected from standard neutron cross-section tables. The discrepancies were particularly large for scattering on protons, a phenomenon that became known as 'the...

Institut Laue-Langevin

Neutrons reveal hidden secrets of the hepatitis C virus

•    p7 is a protein essential for the release of the hepatitis C virus, however little data is currently available on the way it interacts with its environment, hindering the development of vaccinations for it
•    Researchers have observed the structure of a functional p7 protein within its native environment for the first time using reflected neutrons
•    The specific protein insertion mechanism observed will help to outline potential target mechanisms for future drug development


Erik Watkins, former ILL FIGARO Instrument Scientist, said: “This new approach is a simple and efficient method complementary to other structural and more complex techniques such as NMR and crystallography. This has proved a powerful tool for characterising...

Argonne National Laboratory

Breaking bad metals with neutrons

“Neutrons are absolutely essential for this research. Neutron scattering is the only technique that is sensitive to the whole spectrum of electronic fluctuations in four dimensions of momentum and energy, and the only technique that can be reliably compared to realistic theoretical calculations on an absolute intensity scale.” -Ray Osborn, Argonne senior scientist


By exploiting the properties of neutrons to probe electrons in a metal, a team of researchers led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has gained new insight into the behavior of correlated electron systems, which are materials that have useful properties such as magnetism or superconductivity.


The research, to be published in Science, shows...

World of Chemicals

Common ‘oxygen sponge’ catalyst soaks up hydrogen too

Having the right tool for the job enabled scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their collaborators to discover that a workhorse catalyst of vehicle exhaust systems—an “oxygen sponge” that can soak up oxygen from air and store it for later use in oxidation reactions—may also be a “hydrogen sponge.”


The finding, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, may pave the way for the design of more effective catalysts for selective hydrogenation reactions. Selective hydrogenation is the key to producing valuable chemicals, for example, turning triple-bonded hydrocarbons called alkynes selectively into double-bonded alkenes — starting materials for the synthesis of plastics, fuels and other...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutrons Inspect Salt-inclusion Materials to Improve Long-term Waste Storage

A team of researchers from the University of South Carolina is using neutrons to develop more durable and efficient materials called waste forms for safely storing hazardous substances.


The USC team recently visited the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study salt-inclusion materials (SIMs) that contain internal silicate channels with the capacity to safely immobilize nuclear waste. The researchers hope to obtain valuable insights into the materials’ properties using resources at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source such as the POWGEN instrument, SNS beamline 11A.                         


“We are studying SIMs with the intent to create new materials that more efficiently and safely sequester nuclear waste elements...

The atomic dynamics of rare everlasting electric fields

The discovery could help scientists develop new materials with similar properties for novel computing devices and micro-actuators.


By ricocheting neutrons off the atoms of yttrium manganite (YMnO3) heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, researchers have discovered the atomic mechanisms that give the unusual material its rare electromagnetic properties.


The experiment was conducted as a collaboration between Duke University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and appeared online in Nature Communications on January 2, 2018.


Ferromagnetism is the scientific term for the phenomenon responsible for permanent magnets like iron. Such  exist because their molecular structure consists of tiny magnetic patches that all point in...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutrons—Exotic particles for quantum computing

A novel approach for studying magnetic behavior in a material called alpha-ruthenium trichloride may have implications for quantum computing.


By suppressing the material’s magnetic order, scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee observed behavior consistent with exotic particles that are predicted to emerge when energy is added to a quantum spin liquid, or QSL. QSLs exist in certain materials where magnetic moments fluctuate in a liquid-like state rather than forming an ordered pattern.


The team disrupted the material’s magnetic order by substituting iridium ions for ruthenium, then used neutron scattering to characterize the resulting magnetic behavior. “Through this process, we saw hints of...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Fossil energy—Neutrons run deep

To improve models for drilling, hydraulic fracturing and underground storage of carbon dioxide, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists used neutrons to understand how water flows through fractured rock.


Researchers used neutrons bouncing off the hydrogen in water molecules to see inside the rock’s microstructure without destroying it and quantify water uptake in real time.  


“One of the biggest challenges with shale is that it’s such a complex system,” ORNL’s Victoria DiStefano said. “Neutrons help us grasp the complex rock and fracture properties, which determine how quickly water uptake occurs in the rock.” Results of the study, which used rock samples from the oil- and gas-rich Eagle Ford Shale Formation in Texas, are detailed...

Institut Laue-Langevin

ILL D20’s neutron beam yields important clues to the unconventional origins of superconductivity

Iron-based superconductors contain layers of iron and a pnictogen – such as arsenic or phosphorus – or a chalcogen, like oxygen or selenium. Previously dismissed as weak candidates for superconductivity, iron-based superconductors took the science community by surprise when it was discovered that the new iron arsenide family had very high transition temperatures.


Since then these high-temperature superconductors have become a hot topic of research, with neutrons and muons playing an essential role in investigating their unusual properties, in order to help quantum physics develop a theory behind high-temperature superconductive materials.


A team of researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ibaraki University, the Institute of...

Quanta Magazine

Neutrinos Suggest Solution to Mystery of Universe’s Existence

Updated results from a Japanese neutrino experiment continue to reveal an inconsistency in the way that matter and antimatter behave.


From above, you might mistake the hole in the ground for a gigantic elevator shaft. Instead, it leads to an experiment that might reveal why matter didn’t disappear in a puff of radiation shortly after the Big Bang.


I’m at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex, or J-PARC — a remote and well-guarded government facility in Tokai, about an hour’s train ride north of Tokyo. The experiment here, called T2K (for Tokai-to-Kamioka) produces a beam of the subatomic particles called neutrinos. The beam travels through 295 kilometers of rock to the Super-Kamiokande (Super-K) detector, a gigantic pit buried 1...

Nature Communications

Magnetostriction-polarization coupling in multiferroic Mn2MnWO6

Double corundum-related polar magnets are promising materials for multiferroic and magnetoelectric applications in spintronics. However, their design and synthesis is a challenge, and magnetoelectric coupling has only been observed in Ni3TeO6 among the known double corundum compounds to date.


Here we address the high-pressure synthesis of a new polar and antiferromagnetic corundum derivative Mn2MnWO6, which adopts the Ni3TeO6-type structure with low temperature first-order field-induced metamagnetic phase transitions (TN = 58 K) and high spontaneous polarization (~ 63.3 μC·cm−2). The magnetostriction-polarization coupling in Mn2MnWO6 is evidenced by second harmonic generation effect, and corroborated by magnetic-field-dependent...

Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin

Solar energy: Defects in Kesterite semiconductors studied using neutrons

A research team at the HZB has precisely characterised for the first time the various types of defects in kesterite semiconductors. They achieved this with the help of neutron scattering at the BER II research reactor and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA. The findings point to a means of guided optimisation for kesterite solar cells.


“The point defects we investigated experimentally really correspond quite well to the theoretical model of potential defects”, declared Dr. Galina Gurieva from the HZB Structure and Dynamics of Energy Materials group. “We can deduce concrete clues from this study as to which point defects in which concentration to expect in the given composition of kesterite thin films ”, says Gurieva. “This may...


The AI Company That Helps Boeing Cook New Metals for Jets

At HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, materials scientist Hunter Martin and his team load a grey powder as fine as confectioner’s sugar into a machine. They’ve curated the powder recipe—mostly aluminum, blended with some other elements—down to the atom. The machine, a 3-D metal printer, lays the powder down a single dusting at time, while a laser overhead welds the layers together. Over several hours, the machine prints a small block the size of brownie.


HRL’s parent companies, Boeing and General Motors, want to 3-D print intricate metal parts in mass for their sleek new generation of cars and planes. Airbus has already installed the first-ever 3-D printed metal part on a commercial airplane, a bracket that attaches to its wings. But...

Neutrons reveal fast methane translational diffusion at the interface of two clathrate structures

Umbertoluca Ranieri, PhD student at ILL and EPFL, and lead author of this study says: "These results are important in improving our understanding of many fundamental non-equilibrium phenomena involving methane clathrate hydrates; for example, the replacement kinetics during gas exchange in case of conversion between the clathrate structures I and II. This knowledge will also help us to tackle important energy and environmental issues such as methane recovery from marine hydrates sediments and carbon dioxide capture in the future."


Gas clathrate hydrates are ice-like solids, in which gas molecules or atoms are trapped inside crystalline frameworks formed by water molecules. They have attracted considerable attention over the last decade...

Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering

Neutron Beams Provide Insights Into Bio-Molecular Diffusion

Memorial University physicists are using neutron beams to shed light on the molecular behaviours that are fundamental to the inner workings of living cells.


In collaboration with physicists from the University of Wisconsin and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the U.S., Yethiraj and graduate student Swomitra Palit demonstrated that neutron beams can indeed be used to obtain independent size measurements of polymers in crowded solutions. To get these measurements, they travelled to ORNL to use a specialized technique called ‘small-angle neutron scattering’ (SANS), which is currently unavailable in Canada (although a SANS beamline is presently being built at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor and should be completed in 2019).


Yethiraj and...

Elastic incoherent neutron scattering at ILL challenge the Lindemann criterion in proteins

Proteins are the nano-machines that Nature uses to perform most of the processes critical for the metabolism in cells. One of the key goals of life and physical sciences revolves around understanding the structural and dynamic properties of the native, transition, intermediate, and denatured states of proteins. The denaturation transition – defined as the transition of proteins from their specific native functional state to the unfolded inoperative state – is of particular interest, as it is defining the boundaries of stability and functionality of the phase diagram of proteins.


Internal subnanosecond timescale motions are also key for protein folding – without these proteins could not even fold in their native structure. Furthermore,...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The right mix: Water and neutrons with Eugene Mamontov

Eugene Mamontov’s background in both basic and applied science has made him a valued partner for scientists who come to the Spallation Neutron Source at ORNL in search of a better understanding of the water dynamics in their research—projects as diverse as studying plant cellulose or analyzing nanostructured membranes for desalination.


Mamontov is the lead instrument scientist for BASIS, the backscattering, crystal-analyzer spectrometer at the SNS that is particularly good at deciphering the dynamics of water in various systems.


“We predominately study hydrogen-bearing materials on BASIS, and many of them are water-related,” Mamontov said. “There’s a good reason we are so preoccupied with water. It is a molecule mostly made up of...

ISIS Neutron & Muon Source

Getting to grips with corrosion

Neutron reflectometry has been used to improve our fundamental understanding of corrosion and corrosion inhibitors.


In Neutron Reflectometry for Studying Corrosion and Corrosion Inhibition, published in Metals, Mary Wood and Stuart Clarke of the University of Cambridge discuss the great potential of neutron reflectometry (NR) to improve our fundamental understanding of corrosion and corrosion inhibitors. NR presents some challenges, in that very clean and flat samples are required, low neutron flux can dictate long measurement times and gaining access to international facilities is a competitive process. However, NR is a powerful and non-destructive tool that can characterise the thickness, roughness and composition of metal films, their...

Physics (APS)

Synopsis: Peering into a Molecular Magnet

Researchers characterize the spin couplings in the prototypical single-molecule magnet Mn12 using an advanced neutron scattering technique.


Single-molecule magnets could work as nanosized bits for future data storage technology. But, decades on from the discovery of the first molecular magnets, researchers still don’t have a good understanding of how the individual spins in the complex molecules interact. Now Paolo Santini of the University of Parma in Italy and his colleagues have characterized the spin couplings in the archetypal molecular magnet, the twelve-ion manganese cluster,  Mn12. The results—based on neutron scattering—could help in chemically designing new molecules with desired magnetic properties.


The Mn12 molecule has a...

Pan European Networks

Ultra-cold neutrons aid the search for dark matter

Since the start of its operation in 1985, the experimental installation ‘Physique Fondamentale 2’ (PF2) at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France, has been the only user facility for ultra-cold neutron (UCN) research in the world, until recently.


Ultra-cold neutrons play an important role in addressing key questions of particle physics at the low-energy, high-precision frontier, complementary to the high-energy frontier probed at particle accelerators.


An unusual property of UCNs is that their kinetic energy is so small that they can become trapped in material and/or magnetic bottles, hence are observable for long times.


It is unsurprising then, that over the last 30 years since its inception, data generated on PF2 is...

Asian Scientist

Japan Scales Up Particle Physics Research

The Next-generation Neutrino Science Organization will oversee the Hyper-Kamiokande nucleon decay and neutrino experiment.


Scientists in Japan are pushing forward with the Hyper-Kamiokande project which aims to address the mysteries of the origin and evolution of the Universe’s matter. To realize these goals, it will combine a high intensity neutrino beam from the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) with a new detector approximately ten times larger than the present Super-Kamiokande detector.


In collaboration with the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research (ICRR) and the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU), the University of Tokyo announced the launch of its Next-generation Neutrino...

Linnæus University

New research may provide better electronic components in the future

Supported by a grant from the Swedish Research Council, researchers at Linnaeus University will conduct experimental and theoretical studies of magnetic topological materials, a field awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016. Possible results of the project include new types of energy-efficient magnetoelectronic components.


Conductors, semiconductors and insulators. That is the traditional classification of materials based on their ability to conduct, partially conduct or not conduct electrical current. Examples of these three types of material are copper, silicon and plastic.


Over the past ten years, however, new materials with unique properties have been discovered, the so-called topological isolators (TI) and topological semimetals...

University of Sussex

Hunt for dark matter is narrowed by new University of Sussex research

Scientists at the University of Sussex have disproved the existence of a specific type of axion - an important candidate ‘dark matter’ particle - across a wide range of its possible masses.


The data were collected by an international consortium, the Neutron Electric Dipole Moment (nEDM) Collaboration, whose experiment is based at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland.   Data were taken there and, earlier, at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble.


Professor Philip Harris, Head of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex, and head of the nEDM group there, said:


“Experts largely agree that a major portion of the mass in the universe consists of ‘dark matter’. Its nature, however, remains completely obscure. One...

Brock University

Brock physicist on the hunt for neutron beam source

A team of Canadian scientists, headed up by Brock University Associate Professor of Physics Thad Harroun, is travelling to Sweden next week in hopes of striking up a partnership to access the European Spallation Source (ESS), a neutron beam source facility being built there.


The meetings are meant to prepare for next year’s closure of Canada’s National Research Universal nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont.


The 60-year-old reactor — the world’s oldest operating research reactor — is slated to shut down in March 2018, after which Canadian and other scientists will no longer be able to use the highly specialized equipment in their experiments.


“We understand the decision, but we’re a casualty of that decision,” says Harroun, who is...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Cyanobacterial Studies Examine Cellular Structure During Nitrogen Starvation

Using nondestructive neutron scattering techniques, scientists are examining how single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria produce oxygen and obtain energy through photosynthesis.


Collaborators from Washington University in St. Louis and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are conducting a series of experiments to study the behavior of phycobilisomes—large antenna protein complexes in cyanobacteria cells—using the Bio-SANS instrument, beamline CG‑3, at the lab’s High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). Phycobilisomes harvest light to initiate photosynthesis, and a better understanding of this process could help researchers design more efficient solar panels and other artificial structures that mimic...


China fires up next-generation neutron-science facility

Beam generator puts country in elite company for doing experiments in materials science and other fields.


China is revving up its next-generation neutron generator and will soon start experiments there. That will lift the country into a select group of nations with facilities that produce intense neutron beams to study the structure of materials.


The China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS) in Dongguan, a 2.2-billion-yuan (US$331-million) centre, will allow the country’s growing pool of top-notch physicists and material scientists, along with international collaborators, to compete in multiple physics and engineering fields. Its designers also hope that the facility will lead to commercial products and applications ranging from batteries...

Neutrons probe oxygen-generating enzyme for a greener approach to clean water

A new study sheds light on a unique enzyme that could provide an eco-friendly treatment for chlorite-contaminated water supplies and improve water quality worldwide.


An international team of researchers led by Christian Obinger from the University of Vienna used neutron analysis at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, x-ray crystallography and other techniques to study the chlorite dismutase enzyme. This naturally occurring protein can break down chlorite, an industrial pollutant found in groundwater, drinking water and soils, into harmless byproducts, but its catalytic process is not well understood. Understanding how the bacterial enzyme converts chlorite into chloride and oxygen could open possibilities for future applications in...

International Business Times

This super-sensitive, flexible material generates electric energy on being stretched or compressed

The thin and flexible material works on the piezoelectric effect – the idea of converting mechanical stress into electric charges.


A group of researchers has developed a unique rubber-like organic material that produces electricity on being stretched or compressed.


The thin and flexible material, which is quite hard to produce at present, works on the piezoelectric effect – the ability of certain materials to convert mechanical stress into electric charges, Phys.orgreports.


The phenomenon has been seen widely in analogue record players that guide a needle through the grooves of a record to generate mechanical vibrations. These vibrations are then converted into electric impulses, which are further amplified to generate sound waves.



Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering

Neutrons Aid The Development Of Cancer-Killing Nanoparticles

A University of Manitoba physicist is part of an international research team developing a cancer treatment method that uses magnetic nanoparticles to kill tumours with heat.


The idea of using heat to destroy cancerous tumours has been around for a long time. However, according to Johan van Lierop, a professor of physics at the University of Manitoba, “the challenge is to overheat the tumour without overheating the surrounding healthy tissue as well.” So far, this challenge has limited the use of heat treatment to only a handful of cancer applications, such as treating certain kinds of brain tumours.


Medical researchers around the world are feverishly searching for ways to overcome this challenge, as today’s cancer treatments don’t...

Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering

Neutron Experiments Add Confidence To Nuclear Reactor Safety

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a leader in sciences that are foundational to reactor safety—including the ability to predict the lifetimes of critical components used in nuclear power stations around the world, especially those in CANDU reactors.


One of the distinct advantages of CANDU reactors is the fact that they don’t require enriched fuel to operate. That’s because the CANDU design uses heavy water, which enables the use of natural (i.e., unenriched) uranium as fuel.


In the latter half of the 20th century, while other nuclear vendor nations were focusing on light water reactors (which do depend on enriched fuel), Canada developed its heavy water technology. Today, there are several CANDUs operating overseas and a fleet of CANDU...

Machine learning and deep learning programs provide a helping hand to scientists analyzing images

Physicists on the MINERvA neutrino experiments at the Department of Energy's Fermilab faced a conundrum. Their particle detector was swamping them with images. The detector lights up every time a neutrino, a tiny elementary particle, breaks into other particles. The machine then takes a digital photo of all of the new particles' movements. As the relevant interactions occur very rarely, having a huge amount of data should have been a good thing. But there were simply too many pictures for the scientists to be able to analyze them as thoroughly as they would have liked to.


"Most of the scientific work that's being done today produces a tremendous amount of data where basically, you can't get human eyes on all of it," said Catherine Schuman...

Journal of Nuclear Science & Technology

Measurements of neutronic characteristics of rectangular and cylindrical coupled hydrogen moderators

Extensive simulation calculations were performed in the design studies of the coupled hydrogen moderator for the pulsed spallation neutron source of the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Facility (J-PARC). It was indicated that a para-hydrogen moderator had an intensity-enhanced region at the fringe part, and that pulse shapes emitted from a cylindrical para-hydrogen moderator gave higher pulse-peak intensities with narrower pulse widths than those from a rectangular one without penalizing the time-integrated intensities. To validate the peculiar distribution and advantages in pulse shapes experimentally, some measurements were performed at the neutron source of the Hokkaido University electron linear accelerator facility. It was observed...

Ames Laboratory

Perfectly frustrated metal provides possible path to superconductivity, other new quantum states

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has discovered and described the existence of a unique disordered electron spin state in a metal that may provide a unique pathway to finding and studying frustrated magnets.


Condensed matter physicists use the term “frustrated” to describe a kind of magnet in which the spins fail to align into stable magnetic order. In perfectly frustrated magnets called spin liquids, the disordered magnetism of these materials persists even at very low temperatures, and their unique properties are of interest in the development of quantum computing and high-temperature superconductivity.


The materials investigated to search for this perfectly frustrated magnetic state are typically insulators. But Ames...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutron spectroscopy reveals common ‘oxygen sponge’ catalyst soaks up hydrogen too

Having the right tool for the job enabled scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their collaborators to discover that a workhorse catalyst of vehicle exhaust systems—an “oxygen sponge” that can soak up oxygen from air and store it for later use in oxidation reactions—may also be a “hydrogen sponge.”


The finding, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, may pave the way for the design of more effective catalysts for selective hydrogenation reactions. Selective hydrogenation is the key to producing valuable chemicals, for example, turning triple-bonded hydrocarbons called alkynes selectively into double-bonded alkenes—starting materials for the synthesis of plastics, fuels and other...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Resisting the resistance: Neutrons search for clues to combat bacterial threats

The discovery of penicillin almost 90 years ago ushered in the age of modern antibiotics, but the growth of antibiotic resistance means bacterial infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis are becoming more difficult to treat.


Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are conducting a series of experiments at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) to make sense of this phenomenon. Using the MaNDi instrument, SNS beamline 11B, they hope to better understand how bacteria containing enzymes called beta-lactamases resist the beta-lactam class of antibiotics. Any antibiotic containing a beta-lactam ring made up of organic compounds falls under this category.  


“We are looking for answers on a...

National Geographic

Mysterious Void Discovered in Egypt's Great Pyramid

Discovered using cosmic-ray muon detectors, the cavity is the first major inner structure discovered in the pyramid since the 1800s.


Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza—one of the wonders of the ancient world, and a dazzling feat of architectural genius—contains a hidden void at least a hundred feet long, scientists announced on Thursday.


The void is the first large inner structure discovered within the 4,500-year-old pyramid since the 1800s—a find made possible by recent advances in high-energy particle physics. The results were published in the journal Nature.


“This is definitely the discovery of the century,” says archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. “There have been many hypotheses...

Institut Laue-Langevin

Not easy to (un)twist! MnSi under a Magnetic Field

ILL, ISIS, Ames Lab, and TU-Delft collaborate on chiral magnetism study


Chiral magnetism attracts a great amount of attention since the observation of chiral skyrmion lattices in the reference system MnSi. These chiral skyrmions have dimensions significantly larger than the lattice constant, are topologically protected, and may have applications in spintronics and novel devices for information storage. In systems like MnSi the non-trivial behavior emerges from a relativistic effect, the Dzyaloshinsky-Moriya (DM) interaction, that twists the magnetic moments with respect to each other.


This interaction becomes noticeable in the absence of a center of symmetry of the crystallographic structure and it is usually weak. Nevertheless, it...

World Economic Forum

It's up to the world of science to provide everyone with clean, affordable water

Thom Mason | Senior Vice President for Laboratory Operation, Battelle Memorial Institute, USA


One of the most fundamental measures of quality of life is access to clean water. Today two thirds of humanity face water stress at some point during the year and one in 10 do not have clean water. As populations grow so will the demands for drinking water and agriculture. At the same time climate change will impact available resources.


Neutron sources such as the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the European Spallation Source being built right next to MAX-IV use neutrons to explore the fundamental properties of advanced materials. Supercomputers couple the information on structure and dynamics obtained from...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutrons reveal suppression of magnetic order in pursuit of a quantum spin liquid

Paige Kelley, a postdoctoral researcher with a joint appointment at the University of Tennessee and the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is using neutrons to study specific crystal properties that could lead to the realization of a quantum spin liquid, a novel state of matter that may form the basis of future quantum computing technologies.


“In a quantum spin liquid, spins continually fluctuate due to quantum effects and never enter a static ordered arrangement, in contrast to conventional magnets,” Kelley said. “These states can host exotic quasiparticles that can be detected by inelastic neutron scattering.”


Recently, she and her team saw evidence of those quasiparticles in alpha-ruthenium...

Pan European Networks

A novel picture of thermal conductivity

Dr Marc de Boissieu, senior scientist at CNRS, tells PEN about new research on thermal conductivity in complex materials


The engineering of thermal conductivity in semiconducting materials is a central issue in the development of modern nano- and microtechnologies, and low thermal conductivity is important in materials used in technology products as it provides thermal insulation and thus the reduction of heat transfer, ensuring the products do not overheat.


In new neutron experiments conducted at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), researchers have provided a direct quantitative measurement of phonon lifetimes in a clathrate, offering a novel picture of thermal conductivity in...

Scientists question assumptions about planet formation

A paper published this week in Astrophysical Journal, led by Open University academics, has examined the exact structure and behaviour of the icy particles that collide and grow at the onset of planet-formation, in a series of revealing experiments at the UK's world-leading neutron source, ISIS.


Senior Lecturer in Astronomy at the School of Physical Sciences, Dr. Helen Fraser, says, "We are already aware of thousands of planets orbiting stars in our own galaxy, as remnants of star-formation, and yet there still isn't a model anywhere in science that can explain exactly how planets form. Our basic understanding is that small particles stick together, building bigger particles, which then also stick, and so forth, until eventually, we have...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 16, 2017 – Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have performed neutron structural analysis of a vitamin B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes.


Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids.


“We visualized the first neutron structure of a vitamin B6 enzyme that belongs to a large protein family with hundreds of members that exist in nature,” said ORNL’s Andrey Kovalevsky, a senior co-author of the study, which was published i...

The Washington Post

Scientists detect gravitational waves from a new kind of nova, sparking a new era in astronomy

Some 130 million years ago, in a galaxy far away, the smoldering cores of two collapsed stars smashed into each other. The resulting explosion sent a burst of gamma rays streaming through space and rippled the very fabric of the universe.


On Aug. 17, those signals reached Earth — and sparked an astronomy revolution.


The distant collision created a “kilonova,” an astronomical marvel that scientists have never seen before. It was the first cosmic event in history to be witnessed via both traditional telescopes, which can observe electromagnetic radiation like gamma rays, and gravitational wave detectors, which sense the wrinkles in space-time produced by distant cataclysms. The detection, which involved thousands of researchers working at...

Institute of Physics: Physics World

Physics World Focus on Neutron Science

  • Jonathan Taylor, head of the ESS Data Management & Software Centre, reviews the data-management challenges facing neutron sources and other large-scale research facilities as they strive to maximize the scientific and economic impact of their work
  • Neutron scattering experiments can generate up to 50 terabytes of data. Jean-François Perrin explains how scientists at the Institut Laue-Langevin, where he is head of computing services, manage these data appropriately.
  • Mats Lindroos, head of the accelerator division at the European Spallation Source (ESS), reflects on the progress of the flagship new neutron facility being built outside Lund, Sweden.
  • Casper Rutjes and Ute Ebert trace how our understanding of thunderstorm physics has evolved in...

STFC / ISIS / Univ. of Leeds

New research could explain how river-like channels formed on Mars

A new research paper published today could help to explain how the mysterious channels, which look like dried-up riverbeds, could have formed on the surface of Mars.


ISIS senior scientist Dr Alan Soper was part of the research team, and he said: “This research is particularly fascinating because it could help us to answer some of the great mysteries about life on other planets... [It] represents a very exciting step forward in the search for extra-terrestrial liquid water—and with it, life.”


Ref.: Highly compressed water structure observed in a perchlorate aqueous solution (Nature Communications)

Mimetic Martian water is under pressure

Researchers investigating whether liquid water could exist on Mars have provided new insight into the limits of life on the red planet.


A team led by Dr Lorna Dougan from the University of Leeds has analysed the structure of water in a magnesium perchlorate solution —what they refer to as "mimetic Martin water"—to better understand how the liquid could exist on the Martian surface.


Martian soil samples gathered by the Phoenix Lander in 2009 found calcium and powerful oxidants, including magnesium perchlorate. This fuelled speculation that perchlorate brine flows might be the cause of channelling and weathering observed on the planet's surface.


Ref.: Highly compressed water structure observed in a perchlorate aqueous solution (Nature...

Superconductivity found in thin films of TiO2

Many of us are familiar with titanium dioxide (TiO2), a whitener commonly used in sunscreens and paints such as the white lines seen on tennis courts. Less well known are other higher titanium oxides—those with a higher number of titanium and oxygen atoms than TiO—that are now the subject of intensifying research due to their potential use in next-generation electronic devices.


Now, researchers at Tokyo Tech have reported superconductivity in two kinds of higher titanium oxides prepared in the form of ultrathin films. With a thickness of around 120 nanometers, these materials reveal properties that are only just beginning to be explored.


"We succeeded in growing thin films of Ti4O7 and γ-Ti3O5 for the first time," says Kohei Yoshimatsu,...

ISIS Neutron Source

The past, present and future of inelastic neutron scattering

Emma Cooper

The use of electron-volt neutron spectroscopy in materials research is a growing area of neutron science, capitalizing upon the unique insights provided by epithermal neutrons on the behaviour and properties of an increasing number of complex materials.

​Professor Carla Andreani, recipient of the 2016 Giuseppe Occhialini Medal and Prize for her “outstanding contributions to novel experimental techniques and methods in neutron spectroscopy and her tireless commitment to fostering the British–Italian collaboration in neutron science" has published two reviews in Advances in Physics, which capture the rapid progress in the field.

CERN Courier

Neutrinos on nuclei

Detailed modelling of the way neutrinos interact with nuclei is crucial if DUNE and other long-baseline neutrino experiments are to extract essential neutrino properties.

A major focus of experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is to search for new phenomena that cannot be explained by the Standard Model of particle physics. In addition to sophisticated analysis routines, this requires detailed measurements of particle tracks and energy deposits produced in large detectors by the LHC’s proton–proton collisions and, in particular, precise knowledge of the collision energy. The LHC’s counter-rotating proton beams each carry an energy of 6.5 TeV and this quantity is known to a precision of about 0.1 per cent – a feat that requires...

CERN Courier

Obituary: Bjørn Jacobsen 1961-2017

Norwegian delegate to the CERN Council and previous chair of the CERN Finance Committee, Bjørn Jacobsen, passed away on 13 June after a few months of illness.


Bjørn co-ordinated the support of all physics programmes of the Research Council of Norway. More recently he served as a special adviser of the Norwegian contribution to large international infrastructure programmes such as the European Spallation Source, the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association and the Nordic Optical Telescope.


Jacobsen studied physics at the University of Oslo, where he obtained his PhD in space physics in 1991. He spent the next 12 years...

Canada’s neutron scientists lament closure of world’s oldest nuclear reactor

The world’s oldest operating nuclear reactor is in the twilight of its life, but the scientists who rely on it for their research are not going gentle into that good night. Canadian scientists are upset about the imminent closure of the Chalk River research reactor and are lobbying the government for a CA$200 million ($162 million) commitment so they can continue to perform materials research using the neutron beams that research reactors provide.

Science X

Neutrons provide a novel picture of thermal conductivity in complex materials

A multi-partner study published today in Nature Communications has addressed phonon lifetime measurement challenges using inelastic neutron scattering (INS) and neutron resonant spin-echo (NRSE) experiments conducted at the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, and Laboratoire Léon Brillouin (LLB) Saclay, France. Whereas the "glass-like" thermal conductivity of the clathrate Ba7.81Ge40.67Au5.33 has frequently been associated with a short phonon lifetime, this study measured for the first time to date a very long phonon lifetime using a large single crystal sample of high quality. The study also reveals a dramatic reduction of the number of phonons carrying heat, as a result of structural complexity, allowing a simple and general...

Science X

First neutron beam produced: A great milestone for China Spallation Neutron Source

Researchers produced a neutron beam at the China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS) for the first time on August 28. The achievement is a milestone for the CSNS project as it marks the completion of main construction and the start of the test operation phase. The national CSNS facility, located in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, should be fully completed and open to domestic and international users by 2018, as scheduled.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

ORNL researchers turn to ‘deep learning’ to solve science’s biggest data problem

A team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been awarded nearly $2 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore the potential of machine learning in revolutionizing scientific data analysis.

The Advances in Machine Learning to Improve Scientific Discovery at Exascale and Beyond (ASCEND) project aims to use deep learning to assist researchers in making sense of massive datasets produced at the world’s most sophisticated scientific facilities.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

World’s smallest neutrino detector finds big physics fingerprint

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—After more than a year of operation at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the COHERENT experiment, using the world’s smallest neutrino detector, has found a big fingerprint of the elusive, electrically neutral particles that interact only weakly with matter.

The research, performed at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and published in the journal Science, provides compelling evidence for a neutrino interaction process predicted by theorists 43 years ago, but never seen.

Canadian Institute for Neutron Scattering

Neutrons Help To Remove Barriers Standing In The Way Of Safer, Better Batteries For Electric Vehicles

After using neutron beams to better understand materials required for safer energy storage, University of Calgary chemists and their international collaborators were able to demonstrate a prototype battery that showed major improvements to performance.

Electric vehicles promise to revolutionize transportation—but safer, better-performing batteries must first be developed before this potential can be turned into a reality. One of the primary challenges is to find a less hazardous electrolyte material for the batteries used in ‘green’ cars. Indeed, the lithium-ion batteries used in today’s electric and plug‑in hybrid vehicles (as well as in portable electronic devices) typically contain flammable liquids as their electrolyte; as such, faulty...

Niels Bohr Institute

Iron secrets behind superconductors unlocked

SUPERCONDUCTORS: Due to magnetism iron should - theoretically - be a poor superconductor. Nevertheless certain ironbased materials possess fine superconducting properties. Why? Because the five unbound electrons found in iron - as a result of individual modes of operation, it turns out - facilitate superconductivity. This new, long sought-for explanation - appearing in this weeks issue of Science - is the result of international co-operation between experts from the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) i Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues from a number of other scientific institutions in Europa and USA.

Nature Scientific Reports

Capturing 3D Water Flow in Rooted Soil by Ultra-fast Neutron Tomography

Non-invasive imaging techniques are the key for better understanding the root-soil interaction which is of great relevance for both plant and soil scientists. Neutrons are a unique probe for non-destructive investigation of root-soil systems.

We demonstrated the ability of ultra-fast tomography to quantitatively image quick changes of water content in the rhizosphere and outlined the value of such imaging data for 3D water uptake modelling. The presented method paves the way for time-resolved studies of various 3D flow and transport phenomena in porous systems.

Pan European Networks

Focus: Neutrons versus disease

The Institut Laue-Langevin’s Anne Martel and Giovanna Fragneto explain how neutrons are supporting the fight against against chronic conditions like diabetes and dementia.

At the ILL, we recently conducted a study in collaboration with researchers from the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, with the aim of enhancing our knowledge of the cytotoxic mechanisms of islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP), a hormone co-secreted with insulin by ß-cells. We investigated the interaction between IAPP and model membranes – both membrane permeation and the structural effects of IAPP – using a range of techniques including neutron scattering and reflectometry methods. This study...

University of Copenhagen

Researchers will find the structure of the smallest building blocks in nano-chemistry

SUBSTANCES IN SOLUTION AND SOLID MATERIALS: Two young researchers from University of Copenhagen have received funding - DKK 10 million each - to build up research groups to study the relationship between the structure of materials at the nano-scale and their properties. New knowledge in this can provide a foundation for everything from better batteries to purification of nuclear waste.