Large Scale Structures
24 Oct 2008



Neutrons as a tool for nanoscience


​​​The Large Scale Structures group​ 


There is an increasing trend towards materials with designed properties, whether electrical, thermal, biological, chemical, magnetic or physical. To design these materials scientists need to understand the underlying molecular structures. Neutrons are a tool to find this information.


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(Please note: Leo Banuelos, Tim Charlton, Dr Ann Terry & Phil ​Taylor have recently left us to take up new positions)


Group Overview

Science and technology is continuously seeking to design better drugs, more efficient power sources, new display technologies, higher storage densities and greener chemical processes to name but a few areas of interest. To do so, a better understanding is needed of the structure of the materials used and the interactions and processes they go through.

Neutron Reflectometry (NR) probes interfacial structure. This enormously broad area includes such diverse systems as proteins interacting at a cell membrane, magnetic coupling in a multilayer stack and surfactants in solutions. The shape of a reflectivity profile tells us about layer thickness, concentration of material at the interface, roughness of surfaces and, especially if the neutrons are polarised, magnetism.

Our NR instrument suite comprises CRISP & SURF (on Target Station 1) and INTER, OFFSPEC & POLREF (on Target Station 2).

Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) looks primarily at bulk materials. One can study such things as polymers, the formation of micelles in solutions or voids or defects in a material. A SANS measurement can yield information about the size of these structures, their shape, and how they are ordered.

Many reactions or interactions take place at extremes of temperature, pressure, magnetic field or in a non-ambient atmosphere. We provide sample environment equipment to achieve these conditions.

Our SANS instrument suite comprises LOQ (on Target Station 1) and SANS2D & ZOOM (on Target Station 2).

A new addition to our capability is the technique of Spin-Echo SANS (SESANS). This can measure much larger length scales (microns) than conventional SANS, though with some practical limitations on sample types and count rates. At present we can conduct some limited SESANS experiments on OFFSPEC, but the new LARMOR instrument will take over this role from late 2016/early 2017.