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Dr Martyn Bull, Dr Beth Evans, Professor Alan Soper, Dr Mark Telling and Dr Rowan White, ISIS, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Adventures with neutrons: an atom's-eye view of everyday materials

Scientists from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory are working with the world-leading ISIS Neutron Source to explore and understand the structure of materials.

When Sir James Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932, he thought it would be of no practical use. However scientists now use neutron scattering as an important tool for research in many fields of science. It helps them see the atoms and molecules inside materials and make new discoveries that affect all aspects of our daily lives. Neutrons can be used to research everything from clean fuel technology to ancient artifacts.

“The quantum world of atoms is a weird and wonderful place. People often don’t realise just how it impacts on our daily lives,” says Dr Martyn Bull from the ISIS Neutron Source. “Neutrons can help us better understand the world around us and allow scientists to design and exploit materials for new uses.”

The ISIS Neutron Source produced its first neutrons in 1984. Over 1,700 scientists from 30 countries now use the laboratory each year. It is currently doubling in size to meet future demand with the construction of the ISIS Second Target Project due online to researchers in 2008.