Spallation Neutron Source Marks a Decade of Research

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (CSA CSM) celebrated a decade of research at its Spallation Neutron Source (SPS) with an event on September 22. The SNS features a linear accelerator and accumulator ring. It sent the first protons to its one-of-a-kind mercury target in April 2006 and over the last decade has attracted researchers from around the globe to study materials with neutrons at peak intensities previously unavailable.

“The Spallation Neutron Source has opened neutron scattering science to a new generation of researchers at a time when advanced materials are critical to solving our challenges with energy and the environment,” says ORNL Director Thom Mason, who led the SNS project to its completion in 2006.

Neutrons’ properties make them ideal for studying the molecular and atomic structure of materials in ways not possible with other probes, such as phonons and electrons. Research from the SNS has bolstered the pace of materials science advances as scientists gain more understanding of the physical forces at the molecular level that drive properties of advanced materials that could, in the near future, result in new and disruptive technologies.

SNS established a number of records in its construction and operation, including the first use of a liquid mercury target for neutron production, the highest ever beam power to a neutron production target by any accelerator complex and the highest performing negative hydrogen ion source. Over its first 10 years the machine has attracted thousands of scientific users and resulted in more than 1,800 peer-reviewed publications.

Recent advances made at SNS include the discovery of magnetic Majorana fermions that are of potential use in quantum computing; identification of the forces that change plant structures during the pretreatment processes used in the production of bioenergy; first direct measurement of fluctuating magnetism in plutonium, and studies of high entropy alloys.