Neutron Sciences

We are a global center for neutron scattering, answering big science questions about the fundamental nature of materials at the atomic scale for breakthroughs benefiting medicine, energy, technology, and industry.

About the Neutron Sciences Directorate

The Neutron Sciences Directorate (NScD) seeks to answer big science questions about the fundamental nature of materials at the atomic scale. Breakthroughs in medicine, energy, technology, and industry follow advances in the understanding of materials. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the US epicenter of one of the most powerful techniques for exploring the nature of materials—neutron scattering. ORNL hosts two of the world’s most powerful sources of neutrons for research: the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), which produce beams of neutrons by two different processes. Because neutrons have no electrical charge, they can easily pass through a sample of material without harming it, revealing information about the material’s structure and properties.

Using special detectors, scientists learn details about the nature of materials ranging from liquid crystals to superconducting ceramics, from proteins to plastics, and from metals to metallic glass magnets.

Neutron scattering is used in many industries—including automotive, aerospace, steel, defense, industrial materials, energy storage, data storage, and biomedicine—to address many of the major scientific challenges of the 21st century.

This information leads to advances that can lower the cost, improve the efficiency and safety of everyday products including electronic devices, batteries, cars, medicine, power lines and more.

SCATTERING NEUTRONS FOR BIG DISCOVERIES

More than 3,000 researchers from around the world travel each year to ORNL to use two of the world’s most powerful neutron sources, the HFIR and the SNS, to solve some of the most challenging scientific questions and spur innovation.

Thirty world-class neutron scattering instruments, with an additional instrument under construction, are available to the research community for materials research. The most promising proposals are selected by a scientific panel through peer review. Scientists who have their proposals selected use the facilities and instruments at SNS and HFIR free of charge in return for making their data and findings public.

The research portfolio for Neutron Sciences Directorate spans four research divisions to advance key science, technology and engineering capabilities while building a competitive, world-class workforce to meet our future mission needs.

The Research Accelerator Division operates the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) accelerator complex, which consists of a negative hydrogen-ion injector, a 1 GeV linear accelerator, a proton accumulator ring, and a liquid mercury target system. At 1.4 megawatts, the SNS accelerator is the most powerful of its kind in the world and provides the proton power to the SNS target system, where neutrons are produced. With upgrades, it also has the flexibility to operate beyond 2.0 megawatts in the future to permit increased scientific output.

The Research Reactor Division operates the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). At 85 MW, HFIR is the highest flux reactor-based source of neutrons for research in the United States and provides one of the highest steady-state neutron fluxes of any research reactor in the world.

The Neutron Scattering Division provides scientific and technical expertise to support and develop world-class neutron scattering user facilities. We work with scientists from around the world and across a wide range of research fields who are using ORNL’s 30 neutron scattering instruments to solve critical research problems and foster breakthrough scientific discoveries.

The Neutron Technologies Division provides innovation in neutron technologies and methodologies to improve performance and expand science capabilities of the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR).

Pioneers of Neutron Sciences

Neutron scattering grew from the nuclear science of the Manhattan Project during the 1940s at what is now ORNL. For more than 7 decades, neutron scattering has been a vital tool for studying materials across many scientific fields and applications, including automotive engines, batteries, data storage, geology, polymers, and biomedicine. Today, that pioneering spirit continues at ORNL, where both world-leading reactor and accelerator neutron sources continue to be enhanced to provide the wholly new capabilities needed to tackle tomorrow’s research challenges. Developments include building new neutron scattering instruments, doubling the SNS accelerator’s power and constructing a Second Target Station (STS) at SNS that will have a pivotal role in extending the reach of neutron scattering to new, transformative opportunities for discovery science. These will include, in particular, applications that require time-resolved examination of nonequilibrium processes in dynamic hierarchical systems over greatly increased length, energy, and time scales.

TEN-YEAR VISION

Our vision is for SNS and HFIR to be world-leading centers for neutron sciences and innovation. Scientists, engineers and other valuable team members collaborate to provide unparalleled neutron scattering capabilities to make new science discoveries and solve challenging problems in materials and energy research. Neutron scattering is ideally positioned to address future challenges that include discovering and characterizing new quantum effects that can be controlled in novel materials that underpin new, transformational technologies, understanding how hierarchical structures with desired materials properties can enable breakthroughs in novel materials, and revealing how the structure and dynamics of biological systems can be used in new applications in energy, biotechnology and biosecurity.
 

Neutron Sciences Divisions, Sections and Groups

Research Accelerator Division

The Research Accelerator Division’s mission is to safely and reliably operate the SNS Accelerator and Target and to execute impactful Accelerator R&D focused on SNS improvements and strategic opportunities, all in support of delivering neutrons for impactful scientific discovery.

Operations, Integration and Maintenance Section

Central hub for the SNS operations, including shift operations, maintenance planning, integration and asset management.

  1. Integration and Planning Group — Integration of SNS field work and installation, planning of outages and maintenance, operations schedule, operation data analysis
  2. Accelerator Operations Group — Shift operations in the SNS CCR (Central Control Room)
  3. Mechanical Support Group — Mechanical research mechanics, executing and supporting mechanical systems field work
  4. Electrical Support Group — Electrical research mechanics, executing and supporting electrical systems field work for the target, accelerator and instrument systems

Accelerator Science and Technology Section

Advance accelerator physics and accelerator and engineering R&D at the SNS and provide support for diagnostics and high-level application software.

  1. Accelerator Physics Group — Accelerator R&D in areas of beam dynamics and high intensity hadron beams; Operations and R&D at the Beam Test Facility; Operations support in machine set- up, high-level application software, foil production and conditioning
  2. Beam Instrumentation Group — R&D in beam instrumentation and lasers; Operation support, maintenance and upgrades for SNS beam instrumentation and diagnostics
  3. Mechanical Engineering Group — Engineering design for accelerator systems components and development of new accelerator systems and components

Accelerator Systems Section

Support of all linac systems, Front End, SRF, RF, high power, DC and pulsed power systems; integrates cryogenics systems at the SNS, and executes focused R&D in SRF and advances lasers.

  1. Cryogenics Group — Operations, maintenance and improvement of SNS cryogenic systems (2K and 4K linac cryogenic systems, cryogenic modulator system helium and nitrogen cryogenic systems).
  2. Front End Systems Group — Operation support, maintenance and upgrades for the SNS Front End Systems; R&D in advanced ion sources
  3. Superconducting RF Group — Maintenance, support, improvement and upgrade of the superconducting linac RF systems; R&D in superconducting RF, plasma processing, terahertz laser systems
  4. RF Systems Group — Maintenance, support, improvement and upgrade of all SNS linac high-power and low-level RF systems and RF test facilities
  5. Electrical Power Conversion Group — Maintenance, support, improvement and upgrade of all SNS high voltage modulators, DC and pulsed power systems

Target and Mechanical Systems Section

The Target and Mechanical Systems section provides operations and support for target and mechanical systems at the SNS.

  1. Cooling Systems Group — Operations, maintenance and support of all accelerator and utilities cooling systems
  2. Vacuum Systems Group — Operations, maintenance and support of all accelerator and instrument vacuum systems
  3. Target Systems Group — Support and maintenance of target systems, target utilities and remote handling
  4. Target Operations Group — Shift operations for target systems (target, mercury loop, cryogenic moderator system)

Control Systems Section

The Controls systems section integrates SNS control systems and personnel protection systems.

  1. Controls Integration Group — Operations, maintenance, support and upgrades of the control systems hardware and software
  2. Protections Systems Group — Support, maintenance, upgrade and improvement of the personnel protection systems
  3. Cryogenics and Target Group — Support, maintenance, upgrade and improvement of process controls for the cryogenics and target systems
  4. Conventional Facilities and Vacuum Group — Support, maintenance, upgrade and improvement of process controls for the conventional facilities and vacuum systems

Research Reactors Division

The Research Reactors Division’s mission is to safely and reliably operate the High Flux Isotope Reactor, providing one of the highest steady-state neutron fluxes of any reactor in the world for neutron scattering experiments focused on impactful scientific discovery, as well as materials irradiation studies and production of medical, industrial, and research isotopes.

Maintenance Section

Sustain material condition and ensure safe, reliable operation for HFIR and Melton Valley Complex Facilities.

  1. Maintenance Engineering Group — Implement and continuously improve the HFIR Maintenance Program for respective areas of expertise. Create detailed work plans for maintenance and upgrade field work and provide Task Leading support.
  2. Maintenance Implementation Group — Skilled craft performing hands-on work

Operations Section

Authorize, direct, and monitor plant operations, consistent with all requirements, and respond to off-normal conditions.

  1. Reactor Shift Operations Group — Responsible for operating the reactor, responding to off-normal events, and supporting outage activities.
  2. Cold Source Shift Operations Group — Responsible for operating the HFIR Cold Source, responding to off-normal events, and supporting outage activities.
  3. Operations Engineering and Support Group — Provide technical assistance to the Operations Manager for managing Material Balance Areas, Nuclear Criticality, Fuel Shipments, etc.; provide day shift operator support for these types of activities; and serve as operating shift relief staffing, as required.

Engineering Section

Design Authority for HFIR, responsible for maintaining the design basis and processes for design modifications, as well as implementation of design changes.

  1. Electrical and I&C Group — Responsible for design and installation for maintenance, modernization, and development of new capabilities falling within electrical, instrumentation & controls, and industrial controls software engineering expertise.
  2. Mechanical / Cold Source Group — Responsible for design and installation for maintenance, modernization, and development of new capabilities falling within mechanical, cryogenics, vacuum, and related engineering expertise.
  3. Experiments & Fabrication Group — Responsible for fuel fabrication quality and continuity of supply, as well as completing complex fabrications, such as control plates, beryllium reflectors, and other components. Serve as liaison to in-core and other non-scattering experiments, helping align research goals with HFIR requirements for successful implementation, and managing the process for approval, irradiation, shipment, and other logistics. Includes design, analysis, and fabrication of experiments, or providing needed support for these processes when performed by researchers in other divisions/directorates seeking to utilize HFIR.
  4. Design Basis Group — Develop CAD models, produce engineering drawings in accordance with standards, and implement drawing management processes to ensure configuration control.

Neutron Scattering Division

The Neutron Scattering Division’s mission is to provide scientific and technical expertise to support and develop world-class neutron scattering user facilities. NSD works with scientists from around the world and across a wide range of research fields to solve critical research problems and foster break though scientific discoveries.

Diffraction Section

Lead the development of neutron diffraction methods and their use in scientific studies.

  1. Powder Diffraction Group — Develop powder diffraction methods; perform scientific studies usingpowder diffraction, participate as integral partner in user research
  2. Single Crystal Diffraction Group — Develop single-crystal diffraction methods; perform scientific studies using single-crystal diffraction, participate as integral partner in user research

Large Scale Structures Section

Lead the development of neutron methods that span multiple length scales, and lead their use in scientific studies.

  1. SANS and Spin Echo Group — Develop Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) and Neutron Spin Echo (NSE) methods; perform scientific studies using SANS and NSE, participate as integral partner in user research
  2. Reflectometry Group — Develop neutron reflectometry methods; perform scientific studies using neutron reflectometry, participate as integral partner in user research
  3. Materials Engineering Group — Develop neutron scattering, diffraction and imaging methods used for the study of materials under mechanical loading and under extremes of pressure or temperature; perform scientific studies using specialized neutron instruments and sample environments, participate as integral partner in user research
  4. Bio-Facilities Group — Provide and develop techniques for structural biology studies on neutron beamlines , perform scientific studies using neutron instruments, participate as integral partner in user research

Spectroscopy Section

Lead the development of neutron spectroscopy methods and their use in scientific studies.

  1. Chemical Spectroscopy Group — Develop neutron spectroscopy methods best suited to study chemical phenomena; perform scientific studies using these spectroscopy techniques, participate as integral partner in user research
  2. Direct Geometry Group — Develop direct geometry (time-of-flight) neutron spectroscopy methods; perform scientific studies using these spectroscopy techniques, participate as integral partner in user research
  3. Triple-Axis Group — Develop triple-axis neutron spectroscopy methods; perform scientific studies using these spectroscopy techniques, participate as integral partner in user research

HFIR Beamline Operations Section

Support scattering experiments and instruments at HFIR; manage the transition of the HFIR instruments during the Be-reflector replacement outage.

  1. HFIR Science Support Group — Provide direct technical support as integral part of the instrument teams for each of the HFIR beamlines
  2. HFIR Instrument Support Group — Provide technical support for the operation of the HFIR beamlines, interface with RRD personnel for regulatory compliance; interface with crafts for maintenance, repairs, and improvements

SNS Beamline Operations Section

SNS Beamline Support: Support scattering experiments and instruments at SNS, including instrument improvements and installations; monitor and support safe operations at all beamlines.

  1. SNS Science Support 1 Group — Provide direct technical support as integral part of the instrument teams for half of the SNS beamlines
  2. SNS Science Support 2 Group — Provide direct technical support as integral part of the instrument teams for half of the SNS beamlines
  3. SNS Instrument Support and Neutron Choppers Group — Provide technical support for the operation of the SNS beamlines; interface with crafts for maintenance, repairs, improvements including neutron choppers
  4. Instrument Hall Coordinators Group — Provide 24/7 technical and logistical support for the neutron scattering instruments at SNS and HFIR

Sample Environment and Labs Section

Develop and deploy leading sample environment capabilities and laboratory support for the user program.

  1. High Pressure Group — Develop and deploy leading sample environments for high pressure studies at both SNS and HFIR beamlines
  2. High Temperature Group — Develop and deploy leading sample environments for high temperature studies at both SNS and HFIR beamlines
  3. Low Temperature and Magnets Group — Develop and deploy leading sample environments for cryogenic and high-magnetic-field studies at both SNS and HFIR beamlines
  4. Labs and Soft Matter Group — Responsible for user sample management and supervision of activities in user labs across SNS and HFIR. Develop and deploy leading sample environments for soft matter studies at both SNS and HFIR beamlines

Neutron Technologies Division

The Neutron Technologies Division’s mission is to develop and deploy critical technologies for instruments and target systems. Support operations in those areas and execute projects in support of neutron sciences.

Neutron Instrument Technologies (RP) Section

Develop, deploy and support state-of-the-art technologies for SNS and HFIR instruments.

  1. Instrument Development & Neutronics Group — Develop new concepts for HFIR and SNS instruments, including automated and seamless integration across data streams. Develop new source concepts and technologies, and provide radiation transport calculations
  2. Neutron Optics & Polarization Group — Develop new devices that employ neutron polarization, and support instruments in the user program with polarized beam operation
  3. Detectors Group — Develop and deploy new detector technologies and support instruments in the user program
  4. DAQ Development Group — Develop, deploy and support software and electronics hardware for acquiring data, and the high-level user interfaces for conducting experiments
  5. DAQ Integration Group — Implement and support hardware and software solutions for controlling and monitoring instrument equipment. Provide and maintain corresponding computing, networking and data storage resources

Neutron Technologies Engineering Section

Develop, deploy and support neutron instrument and target systems with innovative engineering and technology.

  1. Instrument Engineering Group — Develop and deploy world-leading, reliable and safe neutron instruments to enable a world-class neutron science program
  2. Design Services Group — Support neutron instruments and target systems with world-class mechanical design expertise and software product management
  3. Survey, Alignment & Metrology Group — Deploy advanced surveying, alignment and measuring expertise to support instrument, target and accelerator engineering and operations
  4. Monolith Engineering & Manufacturing Group — Develop, design and support monolith components to deliver a reliable and high-performance neutron source. Support procurement and fabrication for complex target systems components
  5. Target Engineering Group — Develop, design and support mercury process system components that deliver a reliable and high-performance neutron source

Site Services Section

Provide management of facilities, projects, engineering and construction for conventional facilities across the Chestnut Ridge site.

  1. Facilities Management & Engineering Group — Design, construct and manage the facility infrastructure across Chestnut Ridge, while providing technical support for the safe and compliant operation of conventional facilities
  2. Electrical Engineering Group — Provide electrical design, construction oversight and maintenance of the facility infrastructure and associated science groups, while managing the operation and maintenance of the Power Distribution System across the Chestnut Ridge campus