Beams of neutrons and muons are used at ISIS to probe the structure and dynamics of condensed matter at microscopic scales ranging from the subatomic to the macromolecular.
There are only two practical methods of generating neutrons in large enough quantities to be useful for experiments: nuclear reactors or big accelerators.
ISIS uses the most efficient accelerator method of neutron production, which is to impact high-energy protons on a heavy metal target – a process known as spallation.
At ISIS, around 2x1016 neutrons are created each second using a 200 µA pulsed beam´ of 800 MeV protons colliding with a tungsten target.
Accelerating particles becomes progressively more difficult with increasing energy. A sequence of four different accelerators is required to produce protons with 800 MeV of energy.
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