Why and how to use neutrons and muons
20 Dec 2022



Neutrons and muons offer unique insights into materials that cannot be gained through other methods.

Antonella on the INES instrument

​Neutrons have a number of unique properties that makes them useful for studying materials at the atomic scale. 

  • Neutron wavelengths are comparable to the spacings of atoms and molecules.
  • ​Neutron energies are comparable to the time scales of molecular diffusion, vibrations and rotations.
  • The neutron’s magnetic moment can be used to study the microscopic magnetic properties of materials.
  • Neutrons can penetrate deep into matter (including many metals) enabling the study of large samples, or small ones inside complex sample environments.
  • ​Neutrons are non-destructive, making them suitable for the characterisation of delicate and precious samples.
  • A range of sample environments can be used, enabling measurements under relevant conditions, including extreme temperature and pressure.
  • The neutron scattering power of different nuclei means that lighter atoms can be studied in the presence of heavier ones.
  • Neutrons can distinguish between different isotopes, and so isotopic substitution (e.g. H/D) can be used to highlight specific structural features.
  • Neutron scattering is highly complementary to other techniques, such as X-ray scattering, electron microscopy and computational methods.
Muons, rather than being scattered by the sample, implant into them and decay to give information about the local structure. 

If you're interested in using neutrons or muons for your research then visit our pages designed for Academic users, or those from Industry​. You may also find it useful to read our pages that discuss which technique would be best used ​to answer your research question, and our individual instrument pages. ​

Contact: de Laune, Rosie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)