Physics at ISIS has a huge crossover with our other science topics. Developing future energy devices, creating green solvents for industry, studying archaeological artefacts or stress in aircraft wings – all of these could be described as physics.
Since neutrons and muons can study where the atoms are and what they are doing in almost any solid or liquid, the techniques have an amazing versatility.
Some examples of their uses are given below, but for more information, visit our other science pages or contact one of our scientists.
Magnetism: We can determine the magnetic field strength, direction and order in a material – for example, antiferromagnetism - even in layers only a few nanometres thick. This research underpins advances in electronic devices and computer components.
Structure: We can investigate how atoms and molecules bind to each other to determine atomic and molecular structures. We can find where the atoms sit and the bond strengths between them.
Superconductivity: Superconducting materials conduct electricity without resistance. Because we dissipate a lot of energy to heat generated by resistance, this technology could vastly reduce our energy consumption. Scientists are using neutrons and muons to study the magnetic behaviour and quantum fluctuations to understand and develop these materials.
Semiconductors: Semiconductors are found in most modern electronic devices. A few unwanted atoms (known as impurities) in a semiconductor can drastically change its performance. Muons can act like the impurity hydrogen in semiconductors and allow us to study how it might affect the material’s electrical properties.