The Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory operated steadily at its full design power of 1.4 megawatts for researchers for the first time on June 26.
â€œWeâ€™re producing neutrons now at this intensity for user experiments,â€ spokesman Bill Cabage said in a telephone interview last week.
The $1.4 billion SNS is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science userÂ facility built on a ridge top at ORNL. It uses a linear proton accelerator and mercury target to provide the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. The proton beam hits the mercury target, knocking off neutrons from liquid mercury atoms. The neutrons, which are used to study materials from superconductors to biological systems, are then channeled down 16 instrument beam lines, where neutron spectrometers produce data revealing the structures and dynamics of molecules and atoms.
The SNS has been used for experiments since it started producing neutrons in April 2006, but at lower power. Researchers wanted to eventually get to full power, even if that had to be done gradually during the past eight years.
â€œThey didnâ€™t want to have a lot of disruption playing with it,â€ Cabage said. â€œThey wanted to keep it reliable for users.â€ [Read more…]