The use of neutrons to probe and understand condensed matter was developed during the second half of the 20th century and neutrons have become, with synchrotrons, one of the main analytical tools in the scientist's toolbox. They contribute to all areas of fundamental research in the physics of condensed matter and chemistry: magnetism, solid chemistry, polymer physics, liquid physics, protein structures, metallurgy, bio-physics…
Neutrons also help to meet societal challenges in applied themes. Examples can be cited in various fields.
- Energy, where the development of fuel cells benefits from neutron imaging and SANS experiments to improve the design of ion exchange membranes. Batteries and hydrogen storage materials require in-depth analysis and characterization of new materials by powder diffraction to obtain the best performance. Neutrons are used to characterize structural materials or fuel elements used in nuclear power plants. They thus contribute to the safety of nuclear installations by controlling the key components.
- Transport, where the development of new, lighter and more resistant alloy metal materials is crucial. To be able to supply these materials, the industry needs neutrons to characterize the structure and texture at each stage of the manufacturing process. New tires reinforced with silica particles and polymers are being developed by large companies which require NO measurements to understand how to improve their formulas.
- Health, where the pharmaceutical industry uses SANS to develop vesicles as vectors for new molecules in medical therapies. Neutrons help to understand the interaction of water with proteins. The behavior of proteins on the surface of the membrane can be studied.
- The climate, where understanding clathrates to prevent them from releasing thousands of cubic meters of CH4 into the atmosphere is important. Only neutrons can determine their structure.
- Cultural heritage, where neutrons are able to penetrate deeply into matter, and allow imaging or diffraction experiments to provide unique information about the interior of artefacts or the effectiveness of protective layers.
- Communications, where neutrons make it possible to study complex magnetic materials which form the basis of new electronic components in mobile phones and communication materials.
Neutrons for organic solar energy technologies (ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, UK)
Neutron experiments reveal proteins which can inhibit amyloid plaque formation (ILL, France)
Toxic and aggressive, but widely used (Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum, Germany)
Neutrons for building a car (Budapest Neutron Centre, Hungary)
Future Science: What will we see at ESS? (European Spallation Source, Sweden)
Coincidence helps expand cornerstone of physics (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany)
Successful demonstration of neutron scattering as a characterization method for battery
Membrane interaction of off-pathway prion oligomers and lipid-induced onpathway
A hand like no other (Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland)
In 2016, during a 2 day workshop, the Conseil Scientifique and Instrumental of the LLB was invited to reflect on the unique role of neutrons together with a number of prominent scientific personalities.
The members of the comittes were Roger Pynn, Kurt Clausen, Ian Anderson, Arnaud Desmedt, Christiane Alba-Simionesco, Eric Eliot, Robet McGreevy, Virginie Simonet.
The invited personalities were Jean-Marie Tarascon (Collège de France), Jean Daillant (Synchrotron SOLEIL), Loïc Barré (Institut Français du Pétrole et des Energies Nouvelles), François Boué (INRA Grignon), Bruno Robert (Institut Joliot, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique), Liliane Léger (Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Univ. Paris Saclay), Andrew Harrison (Synchrotron DIAMOND), Allan Tennant (Oak Ridge National Lab.), Christian Pfleiderer (Technical University Münich), Mickael Fitzpatrick (Coventry University), Sanat Kumar (Columbia University).
The participants produced a document highlighting the use of neutrons in various field of solid state physics and chemistry: Reflection on the unique role of neutrons_2016 .pdf