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Neutron Sciences


Neutron scattering is one of the most powerful techniques for the structural and dynamical study of condensed matter. Thermal neutrons possess both wavelengths that are similar to interatomic spacings in materials and energies that span the conventional chemical energy scale, from ligand field transitions to the energies associated with molecular rotation on surfaces and quantum tunneling. Neutrons also interact with matter in a unique manner, either with the isotopes present in the sample or with unpaired spin density. Combined with the lack of charge on the neutron, which gives them great penetration, neutrons are an amazing tool with which to study phenomena in chemistry, polymer science, biology, materials and chemical physics.

UT has several faculty that use neutrons as a primary or auxiliary tool in their research. This research spans polymer dynamics and structure, crystallography, large-scale assemblies such as micelles, zeolites and other porous materials, and the dynamics of surface-adsorbed gases. UT Chemistry also has strong connections to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with Joint and Adjunct faculty performing research in both places. ORNL is the site of the upgraded High Flux Isotope Reactor, which provides some of the best cold neutron beams globally, and is a highly competitive reactor source for small angle neutron scattering, magnetic studies and crystallography. ORNL is also the site for the construction of the world’s most powerful accelerator-based pulsed neutron source, the Spallation Neutron Source, which is due for completion in 2006. The present facilities and those under construction will make UT Chemistry the best department in the nation at which to undertake neutron scattering research in the chemical and physical sciences.

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