IUCr 1999 Triennial Report - Commission on Neutron Scattering

The last three years have seen major developments in neutron scattering worldwide. On the one hand, there have been major plans developed for advanced neutron scattering facilities in Europe, North America and in the Asia—Pacific region and, on the other, the formation of strong neutron scattering associations in Europe and North America and the beginnings of such an association in Asia/Australasia/Oceania. The Commission on Neutron Scattering has not been directly associated with these developments as a Commission but the standing of its members in their various communities is playing a major part in these developments. This report will concentrate on these developments which have far-reaching consequences for structural and dynamic studies in chemistry, physics and biology as neutron beams with intensities of the order of 100 times those currently available may become accessible in the first years of the new millennium. This is not to forget, however, the very successful satellite meeting and microsymposium programme at the Seattle Congress, the ongoing interests of the Commission in international standards for neutron inelastic scattering cross-sections (NISC) and the internationally agreed exchange format for neutron and synchrotron data as well as the preparations for the satellite and microsymposia, Open Commission Meetings etc. at the forthcoming Glasgow Congress.

International meetings

The firm foundation in neutron scattering research across a broad range of subject areas in Europe as a result of the domestic reactor neutron scattering programmes of European countries and their participation in the Institut Laue—Langevin, Grenoble, France, is well recognised. Since 1995 the establishment of the European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA) has given form and organisation to this community of scientists. The first major meeting of this association at Interlaken, Switzerland, was a resounding success and drew more than 800 participants. The next meeting of this group will be in Budapest, Hungary, 1—4 September 1999 and is again likely to be a 'Mecca' for neutron scattering practitioners worldwide.

In parallel with this, the Neutron Scattering Association has also gone from strength to strength with a very successful meeting in Toronto, Canada, 16—20 August 1997, and satellite meetings at the National Institute for Science and Technology, Gaithersburg, USA, as well as the Intense Pulsed Neutron Source, Argonne National Laboratory. Here about 200 scientists from the USA, Europe and other countries met and there was a strong participation of young scientists. The fields of interests, as in the European meeting, ranged from low-resolution biological structure determination using neutron contrast variation through chemistry and materials science to solid-state physics including superconductivity, ultra-low-temperature magnetism and soft-matter physics. It appears that the widening of applicability of neutron scattering techniques already demonstrated by the European experience is happening elsewhere, particularly as cold neutron sources and the new methods of neutron reflectivity and very high resolution neutron inelastic scattering become more widely understood and applied.

The formation of an Asia/Australasia/Oceania neutron scattering association mooted in the 1997 report has the strong support of the Japanese Neutron Scattering Association and the Australian National Committee for Crystallography. As mentioned in this year’s report, the most tangible initial step was taken at the Asian Crystallographic Association’s meeting in Malaysia (October 1998) with a significant part of the programme devoted to neutron scattering measurements. Major investments in new neutron sources likely to occur or already decided in the Asia—Pacific region (see below) should provide a boost to these initiatives, similar in magnitude to that which has been seen in Europe and North America. It will be the task of the Commission and its members to facilitate these developments with other colleagues.

It would be remiss not to mention the lively participation of neutron scattering scientists in a variety of conferences over the last few years that have been devoted to particular scientific themes. One of the problems of the old International Atomic Energy Agency conferences, which many of us so much appreciated in the 1960's and 1970's, was that they became meetings where the 'converted preached to the converted'. Neutron scattering research now is an integral part, like nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, of many scientific disciplines and the Commission sees it as quite healthy that there are now conferences speaking specifically of neutron and X-ray scattering from surfaces etc. — the techniques having become sufficiently mature to command specialist worldwide audiences at regular intervals in particular subject areas such as surface science.

New major neutron scattering facilities — international cooperation

The Mega-Science Forum of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) produced a report in 1997 which surveyed the possibilities for international cooperation in the construction of major new facilities for neutron scattering, synchrotron radiation etc. The obvious intention was to rationalise development of these sources and maximise international cooperation, which institutes such as the Institut Laue—Langevin, Grenoble, France, have shown to be so valuable for facilitating new scientific developments. Another intention was to use most wisely the experience gained in the construction of one major facility to take the next step with its successor. In this way a worldwide development of facilities could be promoted. The Mega-Science Forum discussions were also in response to the predicted 'neutron drought' likely to occur as the older generation of nuclear reactors become obsolete and are closed down in the early years of the next century, and also a response to the long maturing intentions for major source construction in Europe, North America and Japan.

The last three years have been an exciting period. In North America the major project to create the Advanced Neutron Source (ANS) based upon the world’s most powerful nuclear reactor project at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA was finally cancelled in 1996, to be replaced by the spallation neutron source (SNS) project, again at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA, whose design characteristics to produce a 1 Mw spallation neutron source target would make the next quantum leap beyond the existing world’s best spallation source, the ISIS source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. This project has since been funded by the United States Congress.

In Europe the continuous 1 Mw spallation neutron source at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland has become available and shows the power of a spallation source built on those principles whereas the JRM-2 reactor project in Munich, Germany, is now under construction and is likely to be the world’s most powerful medium flux reactor when it is completed in about two years. The future needs for neutron scattering facilities in Europe were reviewed at a meeting sponsored by the European Science Foundation at Autrans near Grenoble, France, in May 1996 and there are extensive discussions in Europe for a second phase development at the ISIS neutron scattering facility in the UK as well as in preparation for the projected European Spallation Source (ESS).

Nor is major instrument development lacking in the Asia—Pacific region. In Australia the government decided to replace the aging HIFAR nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights near Sydney with a modern 20 Mw research reactor to be in operation by 2005 and, in Japan, major projects were studied both at the KEK, Tskuba, and in the Japanese Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), Tokai, in 1997 and 1998. The Tskuba project was for the Japanese Hadron project a 0.6 Mw pulsed spallation target and associated instruments and the JAERI project was not only to build something approaching 2 Mw in a spallation target useful for neutron scattering but also to begin the study of the destruction of transuranic nuclear waste using spallation. As reported in the 1997 and the 1998 reports, various members of the Commission have been involved in all of these developments giving advice to govern-ments through national and international advisory committees. The Japanese project has recently come to a very exciting point where the KEK and JAERI projects may be combined in a joint project for the most powerful spallation neutron source in the world likely to be operating before 2004. It is expected that a decision on this project will occur within the next six months.


This report has attempted to reflect something of the way in which neutron scattering is developing worldwide. The development of the technique necessarily relies on initiatives taken at large institutes or through a combination of large institutes. These bodies and national bodies have to take the initiative as they have the budgets and the scientific strength to bring together the working parties and technical expertise needed to underpin proposals for finance ranging from hundreds of millions of dollars to more than a billion dollars. It is essential for the scientific intentions — the problems that need to be solved and the sifting of those problems to be sure that the best scientific and technical reasons for the investment are chosen — that the Commission and its members should continue to play a key role.

J.W. White, Chair

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Updated 6th June 1999