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The Conversation Spain

A Spanish ‘miracle’ in Nordic lands for neutron science

The scientific instruments of the largest spallation neutron source in the world, the European Spallation Source, have been named after Thor, god of thunder and strength, and other gods of Norse mythology. Shutterstock / rudall30 Norse legend tells that Odin lived in Asgard with his sons, Thor and Heimdal, as well as a wide cast of gods, demiurges, and divine entities such as Loki, Freia, Bifrost, and Skadi. These names are no longer narrated around a campfire, but are heard in offices and laboratories in Lund, southern Sweden. This is the name of some of the scientific instruments of what will be one of the wonders of the beginning of the 21st century: the largest source of spallation neutrons in the world, the European Spallation Source (ESS). Image courtesy of ESS. This source, the brightest in the world, will take advantage of the operation of the most powerful accelerator on the planet (it can reach up to 5 MW), sending high-energy protons at speeds close to those of light against a target made of heavy metal. In this way, high-energy neutrons are generated that are subsequently “cooled” and transported to the various scientific instruments. Because neutrons are not electrically charged, they have a higher penetration capacity that allows, for example, a 3D radiographic image of any component or device. On the other hand, in analogy with X-ray diffraction, neutrons are capable of determining the atomic structure of the most diverse materials. Furthermore, as they have an intrinsic magnetic moment (spin), they are an essential tool for studying magnetic phenomena in different materials. Finally, the variation in energy of these neutrons after their collision with the samples under study (actually with their constituent atomic nuclei) allows the analysis of fundamental vibrations and provides information on molecular dynamics in biosystems, as well as collective dynamics phenomena in materials. at the atomic and nanoscopic scale. Since the discovery of the neutron in 1930 and the development of early neutron sources in the 1950s, these instruments have become fundamental tools for the study of new materials, compounds, and biostructures. For this reason, the European Union has become involved in the technological challenge of the construction of the spallation source, in which Spain will be one of the key participants. Through the ESS-Bilbao Consortium (a body created after the agreement between the Basque Government and the Central Government), Spain is responsible for the development of various components and instrumentation for the ESS, including the neutron generator target, the heart of the scientific facility. , whose delivery will be the starting gun for the future generation of neutrons around 2023. A scientific ‘miracle’ Another of the scientific projects that is gaining relevance is the development, delivery and commissioning of MIRACLES, a high-performance neutron spectrometer Energy. The efforts of the Spanish organization have been directed to the delivery of this scientific instrument, developed thanks to the joint effort of physicists and engineers, and which will be located in the west wing of the facility. Your goal will be to contribute to various scientific fields related to life sciences, polymers, and much more. This instrument will deliver unprecedented neutron flux with exceptional performance and versatility due to its flexibility in tuning energy resolution, allowing different types of experiments. MIRACLES instrument. The results of the experiments carried out in MIRACLES starting in 2026, its date of commencement of operation, could provide essential support in the study of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as in the development of antibiotics and drugs for various types of cancer. In addition, it could serve as a prop for the study of the phenomenology on which the development of hydrogen storage devices, or fuel cell-type devices, as well as other devices and new materials that make up the set of key elements for the energy transition and the fight against climate change. Finally, its magnetic side will help the development of new magnetic nanomaterials that could contribute to future advances in quantum computing and quantum sensors. The Spanish instrument will use slow or “cold” neutrons (with energy less than 25 millielectronvolts), which will travel about 150 meters through a guide built specifically for this scientific instrument, until they reach a vacuum vessel of about 90 m³ and 3 meters radio station that houses both the sample and the neutron scattering analysis devices. There, the neutrons, after the collision, will be deflected to mirror panels, which will reflect neutrons (backscattering) of a single defined energy to reach the instrument’s detectors. The reading of the change in energy and direction of the neutrons in their interaction with the samples will be interpreted by the scientists in the control room designed for this function. This instrument, like the entire project, is born from a national and international collective effort and group generosity that, with different languages ​​and the same technology, create the science of the future. So that it is not a legend, but a myth of Europeans towards the world.This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original. Jorge Rafael González Teodoro Works for ESS Bilbao Félix Jiménez Villacorta Works for ESS Bilbao Fernando Sordo Balbín Works for ESS Bilbao Mario Pérez López Works for ESS Bilbao

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