Science and Technology Facilities Council
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Swedish connection helps ISIS extend its world-leading capabilities

A new £1.1M funding commitment by the Swedish Research Council VR is set to further boost the world leading capabilities of STFC’s ISIS neutron and muon source and generate new insights in fields ranging from engineering and earth sciences to bioscience and archaeology.

The funding will also aid the international spread of expertise in the use of neutrons to reveal materials’ atomic-scale properties. ISIS will use the income to support the involvement of Swedish scientists in a range of ISIS projects over the next 4 years and to fund equipment towards completion of IMAT, a new £10M research instrument unlike any operating in the world today.

IMAT will offer a unique combination of two techniques – neutron imaging and neutron diffraction:

  • Neutron imaging uses neutrons to ‘see’ inside materials, enabling detailed 2D or 3D images to be produced. Crucially, it can see elements such as hydrogen that X-rays can’t detect. IMAT will be the first instrument at ISIS devoted to the technique of neutron imaging.
  • Neutron diffraction involves recording how neutrons are scattered as they strike atoms in a material. Diffraction data reveals non-destructively how atoms in the material are arranged and how this relates to real-world properties, such as structural integrity.

Due to come online in summer 2015 (neutron imaging) and late 2016 (neutron diffraction), IMAT is ideally suited to generating new insights in fields ranging from engineering and earth sciences to bioscience and archaeology.

Amounting to 14M Swedish Krona, the new agreement between STFC and VR represents the next step in an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship that began a decade ago. As a result of its researchers participating in projects that harness the full suite of leading-edge instruments at ISIS, Sweden will further develop its expertise and experience in neutron-scattering. This is especially valuable in view of the planned multinational European Spallation Source (ESS) to be located in Sweden and due to become operational in 2019.

Professor Robert McGreevy, Director of STFC ISIS, says: “The awarding of this grant is great news not just for ISIS but also for the international research community. Coming shortly after the major agreement signed with VR in December for increased Swedish access to ISIS, this significantly strengthens our relationship. We welcome the opportunity to work together to support and develop the European neutron community, particularly with the ESS currently under construction in Sweden.”

Professor Sten Eriksson of Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, who is co-ordinating Swedish activity under the new contract, says: “ISIS supports an international community of around 3000 scientists including many from Sweden. This agreement will, while enabling a major step towards completion of the ground-breaking IMAT instrument, ensure that Swedish researchers can access state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise and add to their own skills and knowledge base.”

Dr Winfried Kockelmann of STFC ISIS, responsible for the IMAT project, says: “IMAT represents a significant advance in ISIS’s scientific capabilities. Combining neutron diffraction and imaging will open up whole new avenues of research. For example, imaging can precisely locate cracks in materials as they form and this information can be correlated to data on residual stress provided by diffraction.”


Marion O’Sullivan 
STFC Press Officer
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445627
Mob: +44 (0)7824 888990

Notes for Editors

STFC’s ISIS Facility:

The ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences. It is owned and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

ISIS produces beams of neutrons and muons that allow scientists to study materials at the atomic level using a suite of instruments, often described as ‘super-microscopes’. It supports a national and international community of scientists who use neutrons and muons for research in physics, chemistry, materials science, geology, engineering and biology. It is the most productive research centre of its type in the world.

The heart of ISIS is a proton accelerator that produces intense pulses of protons 50 times per second. Muons are produced when the proton beam passes through a carbon target. The protons then go on to collide with a tungsten target and produce neutron pulses.

From the original vision over 30 years ago, ISIS has become one of the UK’s major scientific achievements. As the world’s leading pulsed neutron and muon source, ISIS has changed the way the world views neutron-scattering

VR (Vetenskapsrådet):

VR, the Swedish Research Council, is an authority within Sweden’s Ministry of Education and Research. It has a leading role in developing Swedish research of the highest scientific quality, thereby contributing to the development of society. Besides research funding, the agency advises the Swedish government on research-related issues and participates actively in the discussions to create understanding of the long-term benefits of research.

European Spallation Source (ESS):

The ESS is a multi-disciplinary research centre based on the world’s most powerful neutron source. This new facility will be around 30 times brighter than today's leading facilities, enabling new opportunities for researchers in the fields of life sciences, energy, environmental technology, cultural heritage and fundamental physics.


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