Neutron studies can range from the distances between atoms (0.1 nanometres) to those associated with the structures of large molecular arrays (over 500 nanometres).
Neutrons are penetrating enough to reach deep inside a sample.
They are non-destructive so can be used on delicate biological samples.
Neutrons are very sensitive to light atoms such as hydrogen.
Atoms such as hydrogen, in a selected sample component, can be substituted by a variant with a different number of neutrons in the nucleus - an isotope - which scatters differently and so picks out that component.
The structure of surfaces and interfaces can be revealed by bouncing neutrons off them - the technique of neutron reflectometry.
Because neutrons have a magnetic moment, they are sensitive to the often subtle electronic structures of magnetic and superconducting materials.
Neutron experiments can be used to study:
Advanced materials such as catalysts, hydrogen-storage materials, battery materials
Nano-materials and structures such as magnetic thin films used in computer applications
Molecular materials such as pharmaceuticals
Compounds with exotic magnetic and electronic properties, including high-temperature superconductors
Engineering stresses and strains in components and welds
Plastics, detergents, food products and paints
Proteins, DNA and cell membranes
Complex biomedical materials
Disordered materials and liquids
Rocks and minerals – terrestrial and planetary geology