UK-Netherlands collaboration will build neutron super-microscope

Friday 22 June 2012

Schematic of Larmor

Schematic of Larmor
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A new neutron super-microscope that will help pave the way for new high-tech materials is under construction at ISIS.

The new microscope, called Larmor, will be at the forefront of materials science for engineering, food, health and the natural environment. For example, knowledge gained could play an important role in the development of new high-tech materials for electronic equipment, or in speeding up charging speeds of lithium-ion batteries in electronic vehicles.

“You can also use the instrument in the study of new molecules that can transport medication to the exact location of a tumour, or for improving the composition of food, such as margarine,” said Professor Katia Pappas, Research Co-ordinator, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft).

Larmor will use beams of neutrons to see the exact positions and movements of atoms inside materials with unprecedented accuracy and resolution.

Additional funding to build the innovative neutron super-microscope at ISIS has been announced from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and a consortium of Netherlands universities led by TU Delft.

The Netherlands funding complements previously secured UK funding for the Larmor instrument announced in March 2011 by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science. Larmor is one of four instruments being built as a result of this funding for the Phase 2 instrument suite at the second target station at ISIS.

A number of industry supporters have already expressed a strong interest in using this new instrument, including, Tata Steel, SKF Group, NIZO Food Research, M2i (the Dutch materials innovation institute), Unilever, TI Food Nutrition and the Dutch Polymer Institute.

Over the next five years, ISIS will collaborate with the three Netherlands universities to develop this new and unique super-microscope. The £4.5 million UK contribution to Larmor will provide a high-intensity small-angle scattering instrument, whilst the Netherlands contribution will provide components that give state-of-the-art control of neutron beam polarisation. It is this additional apparatus that will significantly improve accuracy and resolution to levels previously unattained.

“By working closely together we have demonstrated that we are able to build the world’s most advanced neutron instruments and use them to develop a unique understanding of modern materials science,” said Dr Uschi Steigenberger, ISIS director.

“Recent collaborations between ISIS, TU Delft and NWO have already resulted in the construction of the Offspec reflectometer on the second target station at ISIS. The new Larmor instrument that we will build together will significantly extend the concepts used on Offspec to deliver new experimental capabilities to the scientific and industrial user communities.”

Larmor

Construction of the instrument has started and is expected to be completed in September 2014.

Multi-purpose instrument for SANS, diffraction and spectroscopy utilising the Larmor precession of polarised neutrons. Larmor will provide a suite of techniques not currently possible at ISIS and will also expand the range of spatial and temporal length scales to new areas.

The Larmor instrument will implement a number of sophisticated and recently developed techniques based on the application and extension of the neutron spin-echo concept in a single instrument. This multi-purpose instrument for SANS, diffraction and spectroscopy relies on the Larmor precession of polarised neutrons and will be able to measure changes in materials ranging from 0.1 femtometres up to 20mm.

Larmor will find use in exploring the science of soft matter and complex fluids, food science, bio-materials and pharmacy, advanced materials engineering, environmental and earth science.

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