Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sensor improvement brings analysis method into mainstream

Date:
January 8, 2012
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
An advance in sensor design could unshackle a powerful yet high-maintenance technique for exploring material, expanding the scope of neutron interferometry from a test of quantum mechanics to a tool for industry.

Making neutrons better at analyzing material.
Credit: NIST

An advance in sensor design by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Waterloo's Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC) could unshackle a powerful, yet high-maintenance technique for exploring materials. The achievement could expand the technique -- called neutron interferometry -- from a test of quantum mechanics to a tool for industry as well.

Neutron beams can be used in dozens of ways to probe complex molecules and other advanced materials, but few of the analysis techniques require as much care as neutron interferometry. The technique treats neutrons as waves -- a feature of quantum mechanics -- and measures how the neutron is altered as it passes through a sample material. The results can reveal a variety of details about the magnetic, nuclear and structural properties of the sample. Neutron interferometry is extremely sensitive, but it carries a price: the instruments are so exquisitely sensitive to vibration and temperature that they must be built in a blockhouse the size of a garage, where they can be shielded from seismic activity and maintained at temperatures that are stable to within a few thousandths of a degree Celsius.

The team, working at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), found a way to sidestep many of these requirements and render the interferometer much more tolerant of change. The heart of a classic neutron interferometer is a small piece of silicon about the size of a soda can, precisely machined so that three thin walls of silicon jut upwards from its surface. These walls diffract the neutron beam, splitting it in two, sending one part through the sample, and then recombining them. Interference patterns in the output reveal how the neutrons were affected by the sample. The recent innovation is to add an extra wall in a way that increases the overall symmetry of the interferometer.

"By adding a fourth vane to the usual three, we were effectively able to cancel out the effect of many disturbances," says Michael Huber of the NIST research team. "It will allow us to create a device that can be housed in a box the size of a large charcoal grill that sits on the floor."

The advance, Huber says, means the new device can be much closer to the neutron source, delivering more than 10 times as many neutrons on the sample as before and generating data that is far more accurate in a fraction of the time.

"A measurement that might have taken more than a week could be done in a matter of hours now," Huber says. "We can imagine our interferometer becoming more of a 'user facility' that industry and universities can book time on when needed, rather than the esoteric instrument it has been up to this point. This development in neutron interferometry demonstrates that quantum technologies have the potential to emerge from academia to help build practical devices for real-world applications."

Huber adds that the NCNR will still maintain the original blockhouse-style instrument for certain types of interferometry work, but will augment it with the new device, which could start taking measurements when the NCNR resumes neutron production after its expansion project is complete in February 2012.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Pushin, M. Huber, M. Arif, D. Cory. Experimental Realization of Decoherence-Free Subspace in Neutron Interferometry. Physical Review Letters, 2011; 107 (15) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.150401

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Sensor improvement brings analysis method into mainstream." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221105811.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2012, January 8). Sensor improvement brings analysis method into mainstream. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221105811.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Sensor improvement brings analysis method into mainstream." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221105811.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) — TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) — Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) — When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins