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80 Years of Neutrons: a timeline

James Chadwick Neutron Chamber


James Chadwick discovers the neutron. He receives the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935 for discovering the missing part of the atom.


Enrico Fermi receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work investigating the atomic scattering and absorption cross-sections of slow and thermal neutrons.
Neutron diffraction technique


Ernest Wollan and Clifford Shull, using the Graphite reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA, establish the basic principles of the neutron diffraction technique. They prove the existence of antiferromagnetism as predicted by Louis Néel who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1970.


The first measurements of phonons from a prototype triple-axis spectrometer built by Bertran N Brockhouse confirm the quantum theory of solids.
Neutron scattering


The Dido research reactor comes online at the Harwell Laboratory. This helped the UK to develop neutron scattering techniques for materials research.


The Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, one of the most intense thermal neutron sources in the world, comes into operation. It exploits the use of neutron optics (guides) to substantially increase the experimental capacity of a neutron source.

ZING-P and ZING-P’ pulsed spallation neutron source concepts are demonstrated by Jack Carpenter at Argonne National Laboratory.

Surfactant micelle, studied using small angle scattering


Small angle neutron scattering shows that polymer chains in the liquid state have a random coil conformation as predicted by Paul J Flory. He wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his fundamental achievements in understanding macromolecules.


The ISIS pulsed spallation neutron source opens at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. It is the first major neutron user facility based on a high-energy proton accelerator.
neutron spectroscopy


J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alexander Müller receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of high temperature superconductors. Later, neutron spectroscopy shows that magnetic interactions are crucial to this phenomenon. 


Pierre-Gilles de Gennes receives the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on liquid crystals and polymers. Neutron spin-echo spectroscopy was used to validate his models of the snake-like polymer repetition dynamics of polymers.
magnetic atoms


Clifford Shull and Bertram Brockhouse receive the Nobel Prize in Physics for pioneering the development of neutron scattering techniques that can show “where atoms are” and “what atoms do.”


ILL millennium upgrade begins with over a 20 fold increase in detection rate within a decade.
polymers confined in graphite oxides sheets


Next-generation accelerator based pulsed neutron sources come online in the UK (ISIS Target Station 2), Japan (J-PARC) and USA (SNS) opening up new areas of science


Lund, Sweden, is chosen as the site for the European Spallation Source. Construction is planned to be complete by the end of the decade. 

Last updated: 03 March 2016


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