China Fires Up Its First Neutron Beam

The China Spallation Neutron Source has successfully produced a neutron beam for the first time.

AsianScientist (Sep. 14, 2017) – In a press release by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters in Beijing, China, researchers have announced that the first neutron beam from the China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS) has been fired.

The idea of building CSNS was first proposed at the Xiangshan Science Conference in February 2001. CSNS, now under the direction of the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), has relied on CAS throughout its development.

“The Chinese Academy of Sciences has given CSNS a lot of support since 2006. We worked with more than 100 organizations all over the country, especially in producing equipment for the accelerator, target and instrument systems. We managed to overcome many technical problems and, as a result, our equipment localization rate is over 96 percent and much of it has reached a world-leading level,” said Professor Chen Hesheng who manages the CSNS project.

The CSNS is composed of a linear accelerator with modest but upgradable energy of 80 MeV, a rapid cycling synchrotron of 1.6 GeV, two beam lines, a target station with a solid tungsten target and three instruments—a general-purpose powder diffractometer (GPPD), a small-angle neutron scattering instrument (SANS); and a multi-purpose reflectometer (MR).

The GPPD is used to study the crystal and magnetic structures of materials, while the SANS is a very important neutron technique used for probing structures from around one nanometer to more than 100 nanometers. It has a wide variety of applications ranging from polymers to nanoparticles. The MR is used to study the surface and interface structure of materials by analyzing reflected neutrons from the sample.

The CSNS team has spent nearly six years on this project and witnessed many significant moments. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 2011. In October 2014, the H ion source, the first piece of accelerator equipment, was installed in the linear accelerator tunnel, and in July this year, a proton beam was successfully accelerated to 1.6 GeV in the rapid cycling synchrotron.

To produce the neutron beam, the tungsten target was bombarded with the proton beam, which drove neutrons from the nuclei of the target atoms.

Two neutron detectors at the No. 6 and No. 20 beam lines, corresponding to two types of moderators, measured the neutron spectrum, indicating the successful production of the neutron beam. The results show that the design, fabrication, installation and commissioning of the accelerator and target station systems are complete, with a high level of quality and reliability.

The production of the neutron beam has been hailed as a milestone for the CSNS project as it marks the completion of main construction and the start of the test operation phase.

“It is certain that CSNS, as a world-class comprehensive research base, will make great contributions to scientific innovation in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area,” said Chen.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Xinhua News Agency.
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