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Spallation Neutron Source Begins Producing

A jubilant gathering of Spallation Neutron Source team members watched in the control room Friday, April 28, as the SNS generated its first neutrons. The Department of Energy facility, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will be the world's top destination for neutron research. Image credit: ORNL
by Staff Writers
Oak Ridge TN (SPX) May 02, 2006
The Spallation Neutron Source has generated its first neutrons last Friday, the Department of Energy announced Monday. A pulse of protons from the SNS accelerator complex, traveling at nearly the speed of light, struck its target and spalled, or scattered, neutrons from the nuclei of mercury circulating inside the target.

Scientists recorded the neutron emissions on equipment specially installed for the commissioning.

The SNS was designed to study a broad range of materials, from superconducting metals to biological tissues. It will operate as a user facility that each year will enable 2,000 researchers from the United States and abroad to study the science of materials that form the basis for new technologies in energy, telecommunications, manufacturing, transportation, information technology, biotechnology and health, the department said in a statement.

The SNS operated initially at much lower power than its 1.4 megawatt design level, but the target was struck by trillions of protons, generating the first of what will become the world's most intense beams of neutrons for materials research.

"These first neutrons are representative of the technological breakthroughs required to establish the SNS as the world's leading facility for neutron research," said Thom Mason, the SNS director. "We took on the challenges and technical risks involved in designing and delivering the linac (linear accelerator), ring and target because we knew how much the scientific user community would benefit from the results."

The SNS mercury target is the first of its kind. Researchers chose mercury for the medium because, as a relatively heavy element, it is rich in neutrons. Mercury also has the capacity to absorb the powerful pulses from the linac and accumulator ring.

Conventional target materials such as tungsten require cooling with water, which limits power and intensity.

The $1.4 billion facility will produce about eight times the beam power of the world's currently leading pulsed spallation source. This increase in power, when combined with the advanced instrument technology developed at SNS, is intended to give researchers a net improvement in measured neutron beam intensity of factors of 50 to 100.

The SNS was commissioned in stages, beginning with the 1,000-foot linac's front end and continuing through its warm and cold linac sections to the accumulator ring and, now, the target station, which will direct neutrons eventually to 24 highly specialized instruments. A power upgrade and second target station are already in the conceptual stages.

Operating with more than 100,000 separate and interdependent parts, the SNS is the product of a collaboration among six DOE national laboratories, including Lawrence Berkeley, which was responsible for the front-end system that generates the proton beam; Los Alamos and Thomas Jefferson, which designed and built the room-temperature and superconducting sections of the linac; Brookhaven, which designed the accumulator ring; Argonne, which was responsible for the initial suite of scientific instrumentation, and ORNL, which designed and built the target station and is responsible for operating the SNS.

Research conducted at the SNS will lay the groundwork for the next generation of materials research. Scientists think the facility, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will greatly improve the ability to understand the structure of materials.

The knowledge could lead to innovations such as stronger and lighter airplanes, a new generation of batteries and fuel cells, and time-released drugs that target a specific body organ.

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Space Telescopes Probe Secrets Of Fossil Galaxy Clusters
Birmingham, United Kingdom (SPX) Apr 27, 2006
Astronomers using ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra space telescopes have discovered further evidence that dark matter permeates and dominates the behavior of a particular type of galaxy cluster called a fossil group.

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