The First ESS Instruments Recommended for Construction

Which instruments will be available to ESS Scientists in the future? How do they use the brightest neutron beam in the world? The ESS Scientific Advisory Committee discussed the first round of instrument concepts proposed for ESS, recommending two.

The ESS Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) recommended a neutron-imaging instrument and a small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) instrument for construction. Final decisions based on these recommendations will be made by the Steering Committee. A concept for macromolecular crystallography also received high praise, as did a SANS instrument for life science.

“Bringing two, possibly three instrument concepts towards construction is an important step in realizing the scientific potential of ESS,” says Jim Yeck, ESS CEO.

At the autumn 2012 IKON meeting in Lund, four instrument concepts for ESS were proposed. Since then, external experts reviewed the proposals for scientific excellence and technical feasibility. “People around Europe are exploring about 40 instrument concepts to take advantage of the unique pulse structure and high brightness of ESS,” says Dimitri Argyriou, ESS Director for Science. “It is extremely important that we have a fair and transparent way to pick the best instruments for science, as we hope that this first round demonstrates.”

The reviewers were very positive about the concept for an imaging instrument called ODIN. It aims to generate three-dimensional images of objects from archaeological finds, engines in action, magnetic domains in technologically important materials and more.

Two SANS concepts for looking at large molecular structures in solution were put forward: the general-purpose SANS LOKI and the Compact SANS, dedicated to the life sciences. While both were deemed excellent concepts, the SAC asked the Compact SANS to resubmit next year when a clearer view has developed of the overall instrument suite, and recommended LOKI to move ahead with some adjustments to cover also the biological and medical applications. 

The fourth instrument proposal, a macromolecular crystallography instrument known as NMX, was also highly commended. It will give atomic-level information on enzymes and proteins. The SAC asked for an expanded scientific case, and will look at it again at a subsequent meeting.

“This process for selecting instruments for ESS is working very well, says Peter Böni, Professor at Technische Universität München and vice chair of the SAC. “The selection process is driven by scientific merit, and experts in the field review the concepts. This ensures scientific excellence of the facility.”

This was the first round of selections, and the call will be repeated until all 22 instruments of the initial instrument suite are chosen. Thus the reference suite of ESS instruments is now gradually being replaced and modified by actual instrument concepts, developed and chosen by the neutron user community. The proposal round 2013, opening in a few weeks, will see more proposals from around Europe.

“We are pleased to see so many scientists working across Europe to develop the instrument concepts that they need for their research – this creates a facility that is built for, and by, the whole community.” Argyriou says.

The proposal and review documents are available, along with information on the next call for instrument concepts.