Neutrons, the Spies of the Nanoworld
November 24, 2005
New technologies require scientists to develop brand-new materials, and also understand their characteristics and functions at microscopic and nanoscopic levels. Material structures are becoming increasingly small and complex, all the way to atomic dimensions. This is true for materials and material combinations of all different classes --from metals, semiconductors, and ceramics, to organic and biological materials. In order to manipulate the operations of these kind of complex systems, the scientists first need detailed knowledge of their chemical, electronic, and magnetic structures. Neutrons play a key role in this, as the "spies of the nanoworld".
For a year now, the high flux source at Garching has been creating the particularly stealthy neutrons. They are able to move through materials without a trace and without destroying the material systems under investigation. They provide a detailed microscopic picture of the atomic inner life of the material they have passed through. Neutrons are ideal for describing, in particular, magnetic nanostructures and radiation-sensitive organic and biological materials, all the way to their atomic structures.
The neutron spectrometers N-REX+ and TRISP investigate complex solid-state structures and functional thin film systems using a new kind of analysis. It involves the neutron's spin, whose rotational speed can be precisely set using an external magnetic field. Professor Helmut Dosch, the co-ordinator of the research project, explains that "each neutron is sent on a trip through the nanoworld at its own spin, which gives it its own individual clock. At the end of the trip, when the neutron is detected, the clock can be read. Then, the smallest deviations and speed changes in the neutrons provide evidence for the structure and characteristics of the material being investigated."
A number of Max Planck Institutes have been working together in the new research initiative in order to find efficient solutions to the difficult measurement problems. The two spectrometers have been installed by the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research and for Solid State Research. The first major experiments in Garching are to be carried out over the next five years by the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, of Colloids and Interfaces in Golm, of Plasma Physics in Garching, for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, and for Iron Research in Duesseldorf.
Public inauguration on November 24, 2005, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Inauguration ceremony in Lecture Hall 2 (PH2502), Technical University of Munich, Department of Physics, James-Franck Straße, 85748 Garching, Germany