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), and 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) (www.ncnr.nist.gov).  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.

Comments are closed