This infography shows the main types of interactions that slow neutrons have with matter, and how they can be used: neutron scattering and neutron absorption lead to a range of nuclear analytical techniques that provide unique information on many problems that affect people and society.
Neutrons can probe the world at different scales: from atomic resolution holography, to air quality studies spanning the entire planet, neutrons also reveal the nanoworld where nanoparticles are used in medicine and the microworld where forensics or technological questions are solved.
Rechargeable Li-ion batteries are part of everyday life. Real-time in-situ quantification of the changing lithium distribution in the batteries during charging and discharging is extremely useful information.
Nuclear analytical techniques played a pivotal role in helping to solve two high-profile historical forensics "cold cases", including the death of astronomer Tycho Brahe. Did he die from uraemia, from bladder burst, or, as traces of poisonous mercury in his hair would suggest, was he murdered? Radiochemical Neutron Activation Analysis was one key to solve the mystery.
Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells produce electrical energy directly from hydrogen, with, as only byproduct, water. Neutron imaging is used to perform in situ non-destructive analysis on an operating PEM fuel cell.
Gold nanoparticles are of great interest for medical applications, as organic carriers such as drug can be fixed on them, and transported via the blood to body parts to be cured. And to develop these organic-inorganic system, techniques like Small Angle X-Ray Scattering and .Small Angle Neutron Scattering are used.
Glazed tiles are used in many parts of the world to protect building facades, or as decorative art. As the centuries go by, the tiles degrade and action needs to be taken for their conservation and preservation for future generations. Usually, ancient are treated by immersion in a transparent thermoplastic resin. Is the treatment working ? One way to verify that is Neutron Tomography.
Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) and Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) are very often used in air quality studies, due to their high sensitivity to metals and many other elements of interest.
Artificially structured magnetic thin films or multilayers in the nanometer range play a vital role in computer memory applications. These materials could be used to detect very small magnetic fields, which is essential to read data in hard disk drives and other devices. But their properties depend critically on each layer's magnetization state, as well as on interfacial roughness and structure. Polarized neutron reflectometry (PNR) is the technique of choice to study the magnetization of individual nanolayers in multilayered systems.
Optical holography uses laser light, to produce three dimensional images of objects. Holography with electrons and X-rays were able to produce images at the atomic scale, where individual atoms are observed, limited to the surface though. Thermal neutrons do not have these drawbacks, and a series of challenges are being solved to make it work in practice.
Seawater contains enough gold to supply worldwide gold demand for millions of years, if one could extract it from the sea, in an economically viable way. Manganese oxide-based nanostructured materials are good candidate for that, and inelastic neutron scattering plays a crucial role in developing these systems.
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It is also one of the most counterfeited and mislabeled food exports from the developing world. NAA could be used to identify Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee from non-Blue Mountain coffee and from international brands.