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Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering

Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering

The Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (ACNS) is a major research facility for neutron science that comprises a suite of neutron instruments with a range of techniques for scientific investigations in physics, chemistry, materials science, medicine and environmental science among other fields.


The Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering is the home of neutron science in Australia and a leading facility in the Asia Oceania region

It is part of an international network of organisations with neutron sources that delivers world-competitive neutron scattering science from Australian and international users. Research at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering been used to determine the internal structure of many types of materials, helping scientists understand why materials have the properties they do, and helping tailor new materials, devices and systems.

The suite of instruments and operating cabins are housed in the Neutron Guide Hall, which also accommodates sample preparation areas, laboratories and other technical support facilities.

There are 15 neutron beam instruments, which are classified into four main groups: diffractometers, small-angle spectrometers imaging and reflectometry instruments and  inelastic spectrometers.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology funded the construction of a cold neutron triple-axis spectrometer, Sika, which was constructed by National Central University. The National Synchrotron Radiation Research Centre (NSRRC) commissioned the instrument, introduced it into the international user program and promotes its use to users in Taiwan.

Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin agreed to the transfer of their BioRef reflectometer, which will be known as Spatz. It is currently being commissioned. Unlike Platypus which operates in a vertical scattering plane, Spatz operates in the horizontal scattering plane and has an infrared  spectrometer. 

The Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering also operates three X-ray instruments, a helium polarising instrument and a physical properties measurement system.

How it works

Neutrons created by fission from two sources in the OPAL multipurpose reactor are directed into beams that feed a suite of 15 state-of- the-art neutron instruments. Beams of neutrons are used to probe very small samples. Because they can behave as particle or waves with a magnetic moment,  their special properties reveal information about structure and dynamics at the atomic scale. Although neutrons interact with the nuclei of atoms, they are non-invasive in that they do not change a sample nor deposit energy into it. 

For the diffraction instruments, a sample is placed within a neutron beam and the angles at which the neutrons are deflected or scattered by the material are recorded to generate a “diffraction pattern” from which structural information can be extracted.

Diffraction pattern_Koala
A diffraction pattern from the Koala Laue diffractometer


Neutron scattering has been used to find answers to fundamental questions about the structure and composition of materials used in medicine, transportation, building, engineering, food processing and scientific research. They are powerful tools to study magnetism, thermal processes, energy dynamics  and quantum states.