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Neutron Research

Just a few years after the first discovery of the neutron by James Chadwick in 1932, scientists observed that neutrons can be diffracted using crystalline matter. Since that time, neutron scattering methods as analytical techniques have improved, so that today they have evolved into a diverse range of powerful methods providing subtle information about the properties and the behaviour of almost all kinds of materials.

Neutron research contributes to
progress in many scientific fields, such as:

  • Archeology
  • Biology & Biophysics
  • Chemistry
  • Condensed Matter
  • Geo Sciences
  • Magnetism
  • Materials Science
  • Medicine
  • Particle Physics

Application examples

External stresses can increase internal stresses in metals, resulting in tears or even breaks. By using neutrons, internal stresses can be detected as here in railroad tracks.

Radioisotopes needed for tumour diagnosis and treatment of vascular diseases are produced at the neutron source and processed in the adjacent industrial application center.

By using neutrons, a previously unknown form of magnetic order was detected in a semiconductor material, which offers a perspective for smaller, faster and more energy efficient computers.

By using neutrons, the mechanical properties of super alloys can be observed close to the melting point. Super alloys are used in gas turbines, its efficiency increases with the temperature stability of the material.

Radioisotopes needed for tumour diagnosis and treatment of vascular diseases are produced at the neutron source and processed in the adjacent industrial application center.

By using neutrons, scientists could demonstrate that proteins do not need to be surrounded by water to carry out their vital biological functions.

A neutron tomography reveals the contents of a sealed, antique amphora.

The battery systems of today’s electric cars still lack maturity. By using neutrons the processes inside a battery cell can be observed and optimized.

Milestones and Nobel Prizes
in the Field of Neutron Research

W. H. Bragg (1862 – 1942) and W. L. Bragg (1890 – 1971) W. H. Bragg (1862 – 1942) and W. L. Bragg (1890 – 1971) W. H. Bragg (1862 – 1942) and W. L. Bragg (1890 – 1971): Bragg Equation Nobelprice 1915 (Pictures: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)
W. H. Bragg (1862 – 1942) and W. L. Bragg (1890 – 1971): Bragg Equation Nobelprice 1915 (Pictures: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)

1913 Bragg Equation:
Nobel Prize 1915
W. H. Bragg
(1862 – 1942)
W. L. Bragg
(1890 – 1971)

James Chadwick (1891 – 1974) James Chadwick (1891 – 1974) James Chadwick (1891 – 1974): Discovery of the neutron: Nobelprice 1935 (Picture: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)
James Chadwick (1891 – 1974): Discovery of the neutron: Nobelprice 1935 (Picture: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)

1932 Discovery of the neutron:
Nobel Prize 1935
James Chadwick
(1891 – 1974)

Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954) Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954) Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954): Observaion of slow neutrons: Nobelprice 1938 (Picture: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)
Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954): Observaion of slow neutrons: Nobelprice 1938 (Picture: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)

1934 Observation of slow neutrons:
Nobel Prize 1938
Enrico Fermi
(1901 – 1954)

Otto Hahn (1879 – 1968) Otto Hahn (1879 – 1968) Otto Hahn (1879 – 1968): Discovery of nuclear fission: Nobelprice 1944 (Picture: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)
Otto Hahn (1879 – 1968): Discovery of nuclear fission: Nobelprice 1944 (Picture: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)

1938 Discovery of nuclear fission:
Nobel Prize 1944
Otto Hahn
(1879 – 1968)

not rewarded for their contribution:
Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968)
Otto Frisch (1904-1979)

Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (1911 – 2000) Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (1911 – 2000) Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (1911 – 2000): Development of research with neutrons 1957 (Picture: TUM)
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (1911 – 2000): Development of research with neutrons 1957 (Picture: TUM)

1957 Development of research with neutrons
Heinz Maier-Leibnitz
(1911 – 2000)

Bertram N. Brockhouse (1918 – 2003) and Clifford G. Shull (1915 – 2001) Bertram N. Brockhouse (1918 – 2003) and Clifford G. Shull (1915 – 2001) Bertram N. Brockhouse (1918 – 2003), left and Clifford G. Shull (1915 – 2001), right: Nobelprice for the development and application of neutron diffraction methods for studies of atomic and magnetic structures of solids 1994 (Pictures: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)
Bertram N. Brockhouse (1918 – 2003), left and Clifford G. Shull (1915 – 2001), right: Nobelprice for the development and application of neutron diffraction methods for studies of atomic and magnetic structures of solids 1994 (Pictures: The Nobel Foundation, www.nobelprize.org)

Development of neutron scattering techniques for studies of condensed matter:
Nobel Prize 1994
Bertram N. Brockhouse (1918 – 2003)
Clifford G. Shull
(1915 – 2001)

MLZ is a cooperation between:

Technische Universität München> Technische Universität MünchenHelmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht> Helmholtz-Zentrum GeesthachtForschungszentrum Jülich> Forschungszentrum Jülich