Small Angle Neutron Scattering, or SANS, is a technique that lets you peek into the tiny structures of materials at the nanoscale level. Imagine that you have a material – it could be a polymer, a protein, or maybe tiny nanospheres. When a beam of neutrons is directed at it, neutrons scatter in a way that can give you information about the material’s structure. The data you collect during the experiment is represented as a “SANS pattern” – a kind of fingerprint of the material’s nanoscale structures. It reveals details about the size, shape, and arrangement of tiny particles within the material, things with a regular microscope. You can use SANS to investigate a wide range of materials, from plastics to biological molecules, helping in the design of better materials, understanding biological systems, and even creating more efficient energy technologies. In a sense, SANS is like a super microscope that can detect hidden structures of matter at tiny scales.

Go to SANS instrument loaded with samples for Lessons 1 and 2

Go to SANS instrument loaded with samples for Lesson 7

Manual for using SANS instrument (link to Google Doc)

Powder diffraction

The neutron powder diffraction experiment uses a beam of neutrons to explore the hidden structures within materials. A powder sample is made by grinding crystals down to crystal grains, typically of micrometre size. The sample is put in the sample container, with the tiny crystals all mixed together. When the neutron beam interacts with the powder, it scatters in different directions, and this scattering is recorded as counts on a graph. The graph can reveal information about how atoms are arranged in the crystals in the powder; the graph will contain peaks that correspond to crystal planes within the material. By analysing the positions and heights of these peaks, you can unveil essential details about the crystal structure, such as the distances between atoms and the angles between crystal layers. Fields like materials science, chemistry, and drug development use this information to create new materials, understand chemical reactions, and develop medicine. Powder diffraction graphs can guide you to the hidden atomic structures within powdered materials and open doors to exciting scientific discoveries.

Go to powder diffraction instrument loaded with samples for Lessons 1 and 2

Go to powder diffraction instrument loaded with samples for Lesson 4

Manual for using powder diffraction instrument (link to Google Doc)


Neutron imaging uses the penetrating capabilities of neutrons to inspect the internal structures of objects without being destructive. The sample is visualised with a resolution of 10-100 micrometres. When a focused neutron beam is directed at an object under study, the neutrons interact with its atomic nuclei and their surroundings as they pass through. These interactions lead to variations in neutron intensity, which are then recorded and processed to construct a detailed “neutron image” of the object’s internal structure. These images serve as quantitative data representations, giving you information about the material’s composition, density and even the arrangement of elements within the object. Neutron imaging complements X-ray imaging and can help unveil hidden structures, facilitating investigations in archeological research, medical diagnostics, and material science. It provides you with a unique picture of otherwise concealed inner structures of objects.

Go to imaging instruments loaded with samples for Lessons 1 and 2

Go to imaging instruments loaded with samples for Lesson 4

Manual for using imaging instrument (link to Google Doc)

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