Neutron techniques
18 Aug 2009



Neutron techniques




Neutron techniques have distinct benefits:

  • 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
  • Archaeological artefacts