Neutron Day 2015

Neutrons are far too tiny for the human eye to see, but they can help us “see” deep into matter and determine the properties of materials at the subatomic level.

Neutrons can behave like microscopic magnets, diffract like waves, or set particles into motion, revealing properties not available using other probes or imaging techniques.


Professor Norman Wagner presenting research using neutron scattering at Neutron Day.

More than 100 scientists and engineers came to the University of Delaware on Wednesday, Nov. 4, to learn about the latest developments in this technology at the fourth annual Neutron Day.

The event, “Solving Real-World Problems with Neutrons,” was held in collaboration with the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), a national resource for industry, universities, and government agencies.

Directed by Norman J. Wagner, UD’s Center for Neutron Science is a cooperative agreement between the University and the NCNR that supports over 30 faculty, students and scientists between the two institutions in cooperative research, instrumentation development and education.

“Our partnership with UD is extremely important to NIST in broadening our scientific base, improving our instrumentation, and furthering neutron science,” said NCNR director Dan Neumann. “It’s critical that we have a window to the outside in identifying real-world needs and problems.”

The day-long program featured 10 technical talks by presenters from UD, NIST, and industry, as well as some 30 student posters on topics from methane conversion to disease detection.

Students represented not only UD but several other universities as well, including Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, and Indiana University.

“We are very fortunate to have such close ties with NCNR, which provides world-class capabilities in terms of both staff and physical infrastructure,” said Wagner, who is the Unidel Robert L. Pigford Chaired Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD. “This technology is helping to unlock the secrets of materials at the atomic level and providing the foundation to tailor them for a broad range of medical, energy, environmental, and manufacturing applications.”

Neutron Day was sponsored by UD’s College of Engineering, Center for Neutron Science, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Article by Diane Kukich

CNS News

    • Doug Godfrin, jointly advised by Norman Wagner and Yun Liu was awarded the NIST Sigma Xi Most Outstanding Poster Presentation Award for Biotechnology, Biology, and Polymers. His poster, entitled: “Cluster Mediated Dynamics and Viscosity in Concentrated Protein Solutions” will be posted in the NIST Main Admin building for two weeks.
    • Congratulations to Jingsi Gao, a graduate student at the University of Delaware, who won Second Place in the student poster session at the Society of Rheology’s 86th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA. The title of her poster is “Rheology of dispersions in ionic liquids” with Dr. Mark Shiflett and Dr. Norman Wagner.
    • godfrin - posterCongratulations to Doug Godfrin, a graduate student at the University of Delaware who is stationed at NCNR, who won a poster prize for his high impact work on Monoclonal Antibody Characterization at the American Conference on Neutron Scattering.
    • University of Delaware Professor Norman Wagner was selected as a fellow of the Neutron Scattering Society of America (NSSA)
    • Congratulations to Yun Liu, material physicist in the SANS group at NIST Center for Neutron Research and a research assistant professor in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, for being selected to receive the 2014 NIST-Sigma Xi Katharine B. Gebbie Young Investigator Award! Yun is being recognized “For the discovery of dynamic cluster ordering in complex colloidal systems.”

Recent Events

National Academy of Engineering elects UD’s Norman Wagner — Norman J. Wagner, a University of Delaware engineering professor noted for his groundbreaking research in fluid mechanics and molecular thermodynamics, has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

Wagner, the Robert L. Pigford Chaired Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD, is among NAE’s 67 new members and 12 foreign members.

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.

Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature, and to the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.

“We welcome Norm Wagner’s election to the National Academy of Engineering, a well-deserved honor that recognizes an outstanding career that has encompassed research, innovation, entrepreneurship and education,” said Babatunde Ogunnaike, dean of the College of Engineering. “This is a good day for the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the College of Engineering, the University of Delaware, and indeed the entire state of Delaware.” Read more…

Neutron Day – 2014 — The University of Delaware’s first “Neutron Day” symposium in 2012 drew about 30 participants. This year, the event attracted more than 100 attendees, reflecting the rapidly expanding use of neutron scattering as a research tool.
Neutron scattering, which shows the location and behavior of atoms, allows researchers to see in real time how material structure changes with variations in temperature, pressure, and magnetic or electronic fields.

The technology supports the development of new materials for a broad range of applications from drug delivery systems to nanostructured membranes for environmental and energy applications, superconducting cables, and solar cells.

The one-day event at UD brought leading scientists and engineers from the University’s Center for Neutron Science together with more than 30 scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). The group, which also included industrial scientists, met to discuss new areas of neutron scattering science, with an emphasis on strengths in complex fluids, macromolecular science, and condensed matter physics.

The program featured seven technical talks and more than 25 posters.

In welcoming the participants, Babatunde A. Ogunnaike, dean of the UD College of Engineering, talked about UD’s new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory (ISE Lab), which is enabling new work in microscopy, materials characterization, and nanofabrication.

Norman J. Wagner, director of the Center for Neutron Science, said that the center grew out of ongoing efforts at UD and NIST and strong collaborations between the two institutions. “We actually have a UD-South at NIST’s facility in Gaithersburg,” he said. “Faculty, postdocs, graduate students, engineers and scientists in residence are not only advancing the science there with NIST researchers but also serving as a bridge back to UD.” Read more…

About CNS

Small Angle Neutron Scattering pattern from a flowing self-assembled surfactant system.

Small Angle Neutron Scattering pattern from a flowing self-assembled surfactant system.

The Center for Neutron Science at the University of Delaware is a cooperative agreement between the (UD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) to explore and develop new areas of neutron scattering science, with emphasis on strengths in complex fluids, macromolecular science, and condensed matter physics. This partnership will enhance the small angle neutron scattering (SANS) capabilities of the United States, and thereby, make them available to a large scientific user community. It also help train the next generation of neutron scientists and engineers for careers in support of the national nanotechnology initiative.  SANS is a powerful probe of molecular and nanoscale structure, supramolecular order and dynamics, and can be used to monitor chemical and field-induced transformations.  Because the technique requires a high-flux neutron source, SANS measurements are carried out at large national facilities, of which there are only four in the US.  This cooperative agreement builds on the world-recognized expertise in SANS in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Delaware and their long-standing scientific collaborations with the US’ premier neutron scattering facility NCNR at NIST. The goals of the cooperative agreement include:

      • the operation of SANS instrumentation at NCNR,
      • exploration of new scientific applications of neutron scattering measurements,
      • the development of new SANS instrumentation
      • the development of new educational and training materials for use at UD, NIST and more broadly in support of the national neutron user community.

The project will include significant collaborative research with NIST scientists, and assisting visiting researchers at NCNR. A partnership between NIST and UD will help to develop novel experimental instrumentation of value to the broader research community. The outstanding educational and outreach activities of the UD faculty will be leveraged to enhance educational activities of NCNR to advance the use of neutrons by U.S. university and industrial scientists.

The UD faculty involved in this research and their associations are:

Scientific and Engineering Significance

The scientific research to be performed under this cooperative agreement will answer basic questions about a broad range of nanostructured materials, such as: how flow and processing affect the nanostructure and thermodynamic state of surfactant, polymers, and colloidal suspensions; how molecular structure affects the self-assembly of surfactants, nanoparticles, and macromolecules into functional materials;   how nanostructured materials can be templated by surfactant micelles; what are the effects of protein structure on protein folding and function; what are the effects of the primary structure of synthetic polypeptides on folding kinetics and network formation; and, how structure directing agents create nanoporous, catalytic materials.

These scientific finds have direct engineering and societal impact in a broad range of applications, including: creating new nanostructure building blocks for functional nanodevices (such as photovoltaics and organic solar cells, photonic materials, sensors, and drug delivery agents); improving the efficacy of nanocomposite protective materials (i.e., STF-Armor™ body armor); development of new membranes for applications in fuel cells, batteries, and water purification membranes; improve the processing and efficacy of pharmaceuticals and personal care products; development of engineered nanomaterials for wound healing and tissue repair; improved coatings and adhesives; and the development of new catalysts for improved energy production.

Finally, the proposed research will also develop new instrumentation combining neutron scattering with static and dynamic light scattering, as well as applied external fields to develop novel and unique measurement capabilities for use by the world-wide neutron scattering community, as well as new methods of interpreting and analyzing SANS data to resolve molecular and nanoscale structure.

Training of Next Generation Scientists and Engineers

The cooperative agreement will support the training and education of undergraduate and doctoral students students, as well as professional research staff to work at the forefront and lead the national effort in nanoscience and nanotechnology. The training will provide a unique opportunity for students to work directly with NIST scientists on state of the art methods in neutron science by directly working on developing and operating the propose state-of-the-art neutron scattering facilities being developed at NIST under the expansion plan. These students will provide a critical, future resource for industries, national laboratories, and academic institutions working in nanotechnology and nanomaterials in direct support of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

NIST / NCNR / SANS Background Information

SANS is also valuable to scientists in fields ranging from physics and biology to engineering, and is a key element of the instrumental ‘tool kit’ for nanoscience.   The importance of neutron scattering was highlighted June 2002 by a report from the Office of Science and Technology Policy Interagency Working Group on Neutron Science, who provide as their first recommendation:

1. The highest priority for federal investments in neutron scattering is to fully exploit the best U.S. neutron source capabilities – including the SNS – for the benefit of the broadest possible scientific community. Specifically, these investments should aim to:  

      • Fully develop at least 85% of available beam lines with neutron instrumentation that exceeds, or is at least competitive with international best-in-class instruments;
      •  Maximize the amount of beam time made available to the broad scientific community through an independent, peer-review based general user program;
      • Provide resources to fully staff and support the high productivity operation of the neutron scattering instruments;
      • Provide additional support for research using neutron scattering techniques.”

The same report also says “…the NIST facility is the only U.S. facility which currently provides a broad range of world-class capability…” An important goal of the partnership proposed here is to facilitate further development of  NIST facilities and to support and enhance collaborations and educational activities with NIST and NCNR visiting scientists.

There is already substantial infrastructure in place at NIST to support SANS activities.  The umbrella organizations are the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) and, within it, the NSF (DMR)-funded Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS) (  CHRNS develops and operates state-of-the-art cold neutron scattering instrumentation for use by the general scientific community.  Over 400 scientists, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students use the instruments each year, and their access is granted via a competitive proposal-based evaluation.  CHRNS devotes considerable effort through summer schools, summer internships for undergraduate students, web-based tutorials and related education and outreach efforts to increase the breadth and diversity of the US neutron scattering community.  The partnership proposed here will provide personnel to operate the SANS instrumentation at NCNR, NIST and take advantage both of the NCNR and CHRNS physical and staff infrastructure and the expertise of the research programs in macromolecular science and engineering, condensed matter physics, and chemistry at the University of Delaware to enhance important educational and research activities in neutron science and neutron scattering instrumentation.

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