Information about an extremely broad range of materials, which could not be obtained by other means, can be obtained using neutrons.
The wavelength of neutrons is similar to the distances between atoms and molecules in liquids and solids – condensed matter. This means that when neutrons interact with matter, be it a regular array of atoms or molecules in a crystal lattice, the neutron waves are reflected, or scattered, off the atomic nuclei.
The diffraction pattern resulting from neutron scattering can be recorded as a series of peaks of the scattered neutron intensity, which provides information about the position of the atoms and the distance between them.
Different methods provide different ways of achieving scattering patterns, and can be applied to different kinds of materials.
Neutrons play an important role in the advancement of research into many different areas of science, such as biology, materials science, chemistry, particle physics as well as engineering and medicine.
Neutron scattering techniques can solve a number of scientific problems in the following scientific fields:
To learn more about the role of neutrons in each of these scientific disciplines, click here.
Boiling coffee with a moka. A movie made with neutron images that shows the coffee making process. The movie was made by A. Kaestner at the cold neutron imaging beam line ICON at the Paul Scherrer Institute. The movie is four times faster than in real time.
To watch other video animations of what neutrons can see, please click here.