Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

First Neutron Pulse from SNS 145

Posted by Hemos
from the prepare-the-proton-torpedos dept.
kebes writes "The $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source is nearing completion, and has produced its first neutron pulse. The SNS is a scientific instrument that generates beams of neutrons, which can be used to probe anything from minuscule samples to industrial materials. When fully operational, the facility is expected to host up to 2,000 international scientists annually."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

First Neutron Pulse from SNS

Comments Filter:
  • I for one welcome our Spallating Neutron Overlords..
  • Just for the record (Score:4, Informative)

    by littleghoti (637230) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:30AM (#15245744) Journal
    We've had one of those for a while now, on this side of the pond. http://www.isis.rl.ac.uk/ [rl.ac.uk] They are building a second target at the site, due to open in 2008.

  • Dodgy Iranian nuclear installations?

    Russian chemical weapon stores?

    Iraqi WMD sites?

    Countries onthe Axis of Weavels?

    Spammers?

    Redmond?

    • Actually, i forget the article, but a physicist did genunely suggest using a neutrino (not neutron) beam to cause enermy nuclear weopeans to melt down in there casings. It seemed reasonably practicle as well, it
      would require a very high current particle accelerator to produce a very narrow ultra relavistic pion or
      muon beam. At these high speed the neutrino decay products of pions would still be very tightly directioned. They could pass straight through the earth, and cause sufficient stimulated fission re
    • A flood of neutrons into a fissile isotope... That ought to speed things up quite a bit.

      "Um, Al, you know that U 235 over there. You know, over there in the core."

      "Yep. What about it Mo?"

      "Well, I'm not sure about it yet, but I think that the big red glowing mass that just melted through the containment vessel floor like a giant glowing gopher making a burrow was our U-235."

      "Damn zioinst neutrons!"
  • Hey cool, a friend of mine designed their Web site [sns.gov] when he was working at Los Alamos [lanl.gov]. Small world.

    I'd provide a link to his Web site but I doubt he feels like getting Slashdotted.
    • Even cooler I tested the cryomodules when I was at TJNAF aka JLAB aka CEBAF as a student intern three years ago. It's cool to see that their nearing completion.
    • I looked at the site and frankly didn't find much in the way of what this thing is really about.

      The main page says it can be used to "improve jets; credit cards; pocket calculators; compact discs, computer disks, and magnetic recording tapes; shatter-proof windshields; adjustable seats; and satellite weather information".

      How about something on the site for the technically curious to show just how these sorts of things are done? The site is a thin veneer of a few basic pages and anything deeper just goes t

      • I'll pass your suggestions on to my friend, but seeing as how he hasn't worked on the SNS project for probably four years, I don't know if it'll do much good. =)

        You might want to email the current Webmaster.
  • by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:36AM (#15245805)
    From the article:
    'The machine is so powerful that in one year it will use about the same amount of electricity as a town of 30,000.'

    If we assume that the average person has an electric bill of $1000/yr, that would be $30,000,000/yr, or about $82,200/day just in electricity costs.
    I imagine that lots of scientists would want to play around with this- I would certainly have fun with it given the chance. At that price, though, only extremely well-funded researchers could afford to use this machine.

    • Uh, the scientists' budgets wouldn't necessarily have to pay for the electricity. I'm guessing most, if not all, of that is going to come from the taxpayer.

      Still cheaper than running a war in the middle east, though.
    • Umm I'm sure at that usage rate you would get a bulk rate. FSU pays $18 million a year for electricity for its Mag Lab, and that isn't scaring away anyone.
    • by kebes (861706) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:50AM (#15245960) Journal
      about $82,200/day just in electricity costs.

      Yes, something like that. The instrument at full output is supposed to be 1.4 MW. Assuming 5$/kWhr (note that big installations end up paying less per kWhr, on average, than a residential user) that's over $100,000/day in electricity costs. Of course when running this delivers neutron beams along all of the beam tubes. When fully operational, there should be 24 beamlines, meaning that each researcher is "only" costing ~$5000/day in electricity.

      I imagine that lots of scientists would want to play around with this- I would certainly have fun with it given the chance. At that price, though, only extremely well-funded researchers could afford to use this machine.

      As far as I know, that's not how it works. The researcher does not "pay" outright for the beamtime (although companies renting beamtime do). What happens is that a researcher makes an application for beamtime. Like any other grant, this is reviewed by experts. If the proposal is accepted, the researcher gets the beamtime (for "free"). So instead of giving government funds to researchers, who then buy beamtime, the SNS is funded and divides out the beamtime to researchers worldwide, based on the scientific merit of the proposals.

      I'm not 100% sure that's how the SNS will be run, but that is how such "user facilities" have been run in my experience. The SNS is a government-funded facility whose goal it is to "get important science done" and as such its top priority is to divide up the beamtime to researchers (from around the world) without "wasting any beam-time" and hopefully giving opportunities for the best science to be completed (regardless of how much money the research group has).
      • When fully operational, there should be 24 beamlines, meaning that each researcher is "only" costing ~$5000/day in electricity.

        That's per day that they use the device. I would imagine that most experiments will take significantly longer to prepare and put into papers afterward than they will do perform -- so skilled labour still takes the cake as the bulk of the expense.
        • I would imagine that most experiments will take significantly longer to prepare and put into papers afterward than they will do perform -- so skilled labour still takes the cake as the bulk of the expense.

          You're quite right. In my experience it takes months of sample preparration before going to do such work, and it takes months afterwards to finish analyzing all the data (and then more time to write up the papers). The actual beamtime is typically only one or two weeks. So the bulk of the time for any
          • Contrary to popular belief ... graduate students are NOT particulary cheap, as they cost MUCH more than their stipend. Remember that research funds support tuition (which at a private institution can run $30k+, but is still $5k at public school). In addition, there are overhead costs that are typically 50% (roughly) of the salary for all supported employees. As a result, a grad student at a state-school costs $30-35k in direct costs, and $45-50k with overhead. At a private school, direct costs can easil
            • Just out of curiosity what indirect costs would there be for a grad student. When I was a grad student (I graduated 2 years ago) I received no benefits including no health insurance. I did get free tuition although I had to pay all of my student fees (athletic, activity, technology etc...). When you figure that my stipend was only about 13 grand a year and I worked 7 days a week almost every week I think thats pretty cheap labor!
              • The fringe item I mentioned for post-docs covers benefits like health, etc. As you said, generally this doesn't apply for grad students, but tuition does, so it balances out.

                The indirect costs are charged by the university for infrastructure and maintainance (heat, electricity, cleaning, etc.), as well as for administrative costs. They can also be used for capital expenditures by a school or department (revamping lab space, shared equipment, and so on).

                My main point was just that actual cost of a graduate
      • Why would they just have their own generators? A 1.5 megawatt generator runs about 500k$ US last time I took a look, and I imagine that would be a lot cheaper than utility power...
        • Remember that Oak Ridge National Lab is where the U235 enrichment was done for the first atomic bomb. Uranium enrichment takes up a lot of energy, and the reason that it was done at ORNL was that it was located in the midst of the Tennesee Valley Authority, a government project that put lots of hydroelectric dams in the Tennessee river valley. So there is lots of cheap hydroelectric power available in the area, and I'd be willing to bet ORNL still gets their power cheap from the TVA.
      • $5 per kilowatt hour?
        aka a 'unit'. I just looked up one of our local electricity suppliers prices and 'leccy costs about 10p per unit. You're more than an order of magnitude out.
        I live in the UK, I was under the impression that, relative to the US, our electricity was expensive.
      • OK, I'm not arguing with your math here, but:

        The instrument at full output is supposed to be 1.4 MW. Assuming 5$/kWhr (note that big installations end up paying less per kWhr, on average, than a residential user) that's over $100,000/day in electricity costs.

        According to my math, that ends up being $168,000.00 per day. That's certainly well over $100K/day. However, I do take exception to one of your assumptions. $5/kWhr seems excessive. From my (residential) power bill:


        Non-Fuel Energy Charge:
      • According to my research, industrial non-peak electricity only costs $.03/kilowatthour, which works out to about $42 per hour to run the thing at 1.4 MW. That's less than a plumber's wage. Residential electricity costs much more, especially during peak hours, but even then it's only like $200 per hour at very most.

        BTW, I found this at:
        http://www.xcelenergy.com/docs/corpcomm/Me_Section _5.pdf [xcelenergy.com]
      • Uh.. its probably 5 cents a KWH not $5. So a Megawatt-Hour is about $50 - then say the device uses 2 MW rounding up we get about $100/hour of electricity costs. Not too bad. That is $2400 a day. So $100 a day per beam according to your usage. That is negligable for something like this and almost sounds wrong - but even if it were 2 MW per beam, that would still only be that $100/hr per researcher which again is not much.
        • Thanks to the posters who pointed out the mistake in my previous post. Indeed power is typically on the order of 5 cents/kWhr. I also confused the discussion by mentioning the 1.4 MW that the SNS is rated for. The 1.4 MW is the power delivered to the target. It requires about 42 MW [eurekalert.org] to generate that 1.4 MW proton beam. So we're talking about:

          42,000 kW * 0.05 $/(kW hour) * 24 hours/day = 50,400 $/day

          (Hopefully I haven't made a mistake this time.) This is a lot of money, but really not such a big deal fo
      • If the proposal is accepted, the researcher gets the beamtime (for "free").


        Will they charge you if you don't conduct yourself properly?
    • I'm fortunate enough to be working with the SNS this summer as an intern, so this is exciting news for me. I watched a presentation on the SNS about a year ago, and the Phd who gave the presentation told us the machine is already booked for the next ten years.

      Though there may be other neutron sources out there, as FP mentioned, I don't believe any of them can hold a candle to the power and energy spectrum of the SNS. The reasearch is useful for just about every field out there - from basic materials scienc

    • If the article said

      The machine is so powerful that in one hour it will use about the same amount of electricity as a town of 30,000.

      would you have responded any differently?
    • I have to think that they are not running this thing at full power for particularly long periods.

      Or maybe they are.

      Nevertheless, I'm waiting for the consumer model...

      Hey, it happened to the Hummer, why not?

    • So it works out to $82K per day. But if there are 2000 scientists using the facility that works out to $41 each per day. I suspect that keeping the trash cans empty, roof from leaking and the restrooms clean and stocked costs about the same or maybe more.

      A typical overhead rate for the industry is close the 100%. In other words a high tech company typically pays an enginerr his salery and then spend that much again on all the little (and big) things that enable him to do his work, payroll taxes, vacati

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:37AM (#15245818)
    so I have nothing to say
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ..if at the time of unveiling the project one of the scientists says in british english: "Now this station is Fully Operational!" :)
  • by Eudial (590661) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:41AM (#15245864)
    Uh, okay, not quite sure what this thing actually does? Except fire neutrons at stuff... but while I'm sure that's an amusing thing to do, I doubt that would attract 2,000 international scientists annualy. So, what's the point of this thing?

    • by kebes (861706) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @12:01PM (#15246085) Journal
      So, what's the point of this thing?

      The purpose of a "neutron beam" is *neutron scattering.* You can either use a continuous beam from a nuclear reactor, or a neutron pulse from a spallation source (which the SNS is). The idea is that you sent the beam at your (scientifically interesting) sample, and measure the directions and energies of the neutrons that are scattered/reflected/diffraction from the sample. This is a huge field, but here are some ideas of what it can be used for:

      1. Neutron diffraction can be used for crystallography: to determine the crystal structure (hence molecular structure) of some novel material, drug, protein, etc. This can be done with x-rays also, but for some samples neutrons give better results.

      2. Neutron reflectivity can be used to study thin films: to analyze coatings applied to electronics, or anti-abrasive coatings, or membranes used in medical applications, and so on.

      3. Neutrons can be used to study industrial materials: for instance, a neutron beam can be used to probe a weld joint and map out the 3-dimensional arrangment of microsocpic stress patterns in the material. This has been used to design better welding processes, better aircraft components, engine parts, and so on.

      4. A neutron beam can be used for "imaging" similar to an x-ray... except that neutrons can pass through dense materials (like lead) quite easily and can image organic materials with better sensitivity than x-rays.

      5. Neutron beams can be used for the study of nuclear physics and chemistry, the properties of neutrons, and other particle-physics questions.

      There are of course many other things you can do with a neutron beam, but hopefully that gives you an idea of the diversity of research that goes on at a neutron scattering facility.

      I doubt that would attract 2,000 international scientists annualy

      Well there is quite a bit of demand for neutron beam-time. Since the SNS will take the flux up a notch (8 times higher than anything we have now), researchers will be able to complete their experiments faster (or conversely complete more experiments in a given timeslot), and will also be able to detect things that perhaps went unnoticed before. So yes, there will quite a bit of demand for this installation.
      • by blair1q (305137)
        5 (expanded): you can add neutrons to the nuclei of atoms to create heavier isotopes, which may then (in one of several decay scenarios*) split, as in fission

        I.e., the most obviously valuable use of a high-density, high-energy neutron beam is studying heretofore under-investigated fission reactions and adding significant digits to heretofore over-investigated fission reactions. All this stuff about the "commercial benefits" is a cartoonish beard for A-bomb research.

        * - the other common scenarios are alpha
        • by kebes (861706)
          Yes, neutron beamlines are great for study of transmutation and nuclear properties.

          All this stuff about the "commercial benefits" is a cartoonish beard for A-bomb research.

          I think that's an exageration. At the facilities I've worked at, the research has been heavily geared towards science. Some facilities do indeed use the beams to study materials and designs for next-generation nuclear power plants, but not for weapons. Unlike Los Alamos [lanl.gov], the SNS is optimized for academic research. In fact one of it
          • Unless it has a smaller beam concentration and/or energy than the weapons labs have, it will end up as a weapons research facility, even if it does somehow also make our breakfast cereals a little more "coo-coo" in the process.
      • some more possible applications :

        6. burn the heck out of ants on the sidewalk

        7. further exploration of the stress points for Peeps [peepresearch.org]

        8. the production of tray after tray of wonderful chocolate brownies, in a fraction of the time that it takes to make them in an easy-bake oven
      • Very nice explanation, thanks.
        You forgot one though:

        *pinky in mouth*
        6. Taking over the world... for one...million dollars.

      • Some more info (Score:5, Informative)

        by Quantum Fizz (860218) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @04:18PM (#15248590)
        Neutrons are interesting for a few more reasons.

        Firstly, they're neutral, so the charge of electrons or lattice ions they scatter off of won't give any extra Coulomb repulsion, as it would if they used proton or electron beams for scattering.

        Additionally, they're massive, so the interaction will be different than X-Ray scattering.

        But one of the most important characteristics is that neutrons have a spin of 1/2, and this spin looks like a small magnetic moment. So the neutrons can give useful information about magnetic interactions in the sample. Many people are studying interesting ferromagntic or anti-ferromagnetic interactions of whole new classes of materials with neutron scattering. This is also important for spintronics, where the neutrons will scatter differently off of a particle if that particle is spin-up vs spin-down.

        The neutrons interact nicely with the lattice in a crystal, and with the energies involved they are a great tool for looking directly at phonon modes of the sample.

      • 4. A neutron beam can be used for "imaging" similar to an x-ray... except that neutrons can pass through dense materials (like lead) quite easily and can image organic materials with better sensitivity than x-rays.


        And if you image the object three times, once with a red filter, once with a blue filter, and once with a green filter, you can combine the resulting three images and get color X-rays!

        Thanks folks, I'll be here all week!

    • In some (if not most) situations neutron beams can determine more about the structure of a material than alternative methods.

      Using neutron beams scientists determined the structure of insulin, YBCO, and cell membrane structures. The SNS site has a page that discusses the importance here [sns.gov]

    • For carbon and hydrogen based matters like DNA, RNA, protein and polymer, in many case, it is very hard to get good contrast from either X-ray or electron beam. But by replacing hydrogen with deuterium, we can actually control the contrast from neutron beam. To be simple, neutron is extreme important to the research in biology area and soft condensed materials.

      Neutron has pretty long wave length, thus it can be used to study the structures in nanometer scale. While the X-ray works better actually in Angstr

    • Uh, okay, not quite sure what this thing actually does? Except fire neutrons at stuff... but while I'm sure that's an amusing thing to do, I doubt that would attract 2,000 international scientists annualy.

      Well, I heard that there would be punch and pie.

    • Uh, okay, not quite sure what this thing actually does?

            It attracts those pesky international scientists, of course! Duh!

  • Did they do the Neutron Dance to celebrate?
  • Allowing for time off on weekends and holidays..lets see..that's Eight Scientists a day for probing...line up to the left please and loosen you belts....
  • does this mean i can play mario world again?
  • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:51AM (#15245985)
    "...which can be used to probe anything from miniscule samples to industrial materials."

    Sure, it starts out that way, but before you know it you've opened up a gateway to another dimesion.

    Please, do us all a favor and keep plenty of weapons and ammo around the facility. Oh, and make sure whoever's wearing the hazmat suit has a crowbar with them at all times.
  • by eno2001 (527078)
    I thought we were talking vintage gaming consoles and there was a new cart out for the SNES. Oh well... ;P
  • Would be great for rush hour traffic.
  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @11:53AM (#15246015) Journal

    ...I've got to say it anyhow:

    First Atom: I just lost an electron

    Second Atom: Are you sure?

    First Atom: Yeah, I'm positive.

  • IANAPP (I am not a particle physicist) so I was wondering if someone could explain in layman's terms why this is useful and what potential applications are for this technology. I mean...it sounds really cool...proton beams have been sci-fi weapons forever, but something tells me this doesn't exactly have immediate weapons applications so I'm just curious what exactly it does.

  • When fully operational, the facility is expected to host up to 2,000 international scientists annually

    This is the oldest trick in the book. Behold the power of their fully operational Spallation Neutron Source! Bwah-haa-haa, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What is it those 2,000 scientists are hiding that we need to probe them with neutrons?
  • Neutron Sources (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_source [wikipedia.org]

    Photoneutron process is more efficient than Spallation.

    • Re:Neutron Sources (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Quantum Fizz (860218)
      Is it scalable to the power levels given by the Spallation source? How focused can the beam be? What is the energy dispersion of emitted neutrons, compared to the Spallation source?
  • The facility puts out a huge flux of neutrinos [ornl.gov], allowing improved measurements of the neutrino-matter interaction cross-section.
    • How does it compare to the neutrino flux from the Sun? Everything that I've read about neutrino detectors seems to emphasize how rare it is for a neutrino to interact with matter, like only detecting a small number of events per year.
  • It seems that they must first accelerate charged particles and then turn them into neutrons without significantly modifying their momentum. Does anybody know the details?
    • It's a "spallation" source, which means they bombard a heavy nucleus with something (protons in this case) to knock neutrons off. Details at their web site. [sns.gov] It looks like the pulse actually contains a wide range of momenta, but since it's very brief (corresponding to the brief proton pulse that produced it) you know the momentum of any given neutron by when it arrives at the target/detector.
    • Actually its pretty straight forward - whack a bunch of protons into a target and neutrons drop out. The protons react with nuclei in the target to produce neutrons (and pions and a whole load of other junk). The protons need to be reasonably high energy (say at least relativistic) to get a good neutron yield.

      Usually you use a heavy metal as the target. High nuclear mass so that there are lots of protons and neutrons to collide with, high melting point/tough so you don't damage the target too much when th

      • I wonder why they use Hydrogen ions instead of Helium? Is it because it is cheaper or that they can get Hydrogen ions to higher energies than Helium ions?
        Just kind of wondering since alpha particle bombardment is one of the traditional ways to generate neutrons.
    • IANAPP (I am not a Particle Physicist) but I *DO* work at the SNS site. I'm a software engineer in their Beam Diagnostics group, and was in the contorol room on Friday when we met this milestone. My basic understanding is that here we use our Linac to accelerate protons (H-). A minipuse sent down the linac is approx 700 ns long. They first go into an accumulator ring, and are "stacked" to increase the intensity of the pulse to target. On Friday we accumulated for around 180 pulses, design specs are for
  • Anyone think this technology could act as a catalyst for fusion?
  • The SNS is a scientific instrument that generates beams of neutrons, which can be used to probe anything from miniscule samples to industrial materials. When fully operational, the facility is expected to host up to 2,000 international scientists annually.

    Now, now, the scientists don't deserve that. Couldn't they probe lawyers instead?
  • Anyone remember UCLA doing a form of cold fusion using pyroelectric crystals? It did not release enough energy to make it efficient as an energy source, but I recall the article saying it would make a portable neutron source. Perhaps that could be used to make a smaller and more efficient version of the Oak Ridge facility.
  • This is kind of a crappy Slashdot item, as it links to a Yahoo-hosted news article that will be gone in a month. Yahoo collects and temporarily hosts news items. Their links are dead usually after about a month, in my experience. Future readers won't be able to use the link given in the OP. Wayback doesn't archive Yahoo-hosted articles either, so far as I know. Users can get the same Associated Press article here [msn.com] or here [usatoday.com].

    I find it annoying when I read a Slashdot item from yesteryear and the links are

Disobedience: The silver lining to the cloud of servitude. -- Ambrose Bierce

Working...