What is ISIS?
The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source is a world
leading materials research centre at the
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. ISIS produces beams of neutrons and muons that allow
scientists to study materials at the atomic level using a suite of instruments often d
ISIS supports an international community of
scientists who use neutrons and
muons for research
in physics, chemistry, materials science, geology, engineering and biology.
From clean energy and the
environment, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, through to
nanotechnology, materials engineering and IT
is the most productive research
centre of its type in the world and has published
research papers since 1984.
From the original vision over 30
years ago, ISIS has become one of the UK’s major scientific
As the world’s leading pulsed neutron and muon source, ISIS has changed the
way the world views neutron scattering and all future neutron sources will be based on ISIS
e US and Japan
neutron sources like ISIS in order to catch
up with the UK.
ISIS is owned and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
What does ISIS do
Neutrons play a definitive role in understanding the material world. They can show where
atoms are and what atoms do.
By scattering neutrons off sample materials, scientists can
visualise the positions and motions of atoms and make discoveries that have th
e potential to
affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Neutron scattering is a
research and analysis technique
exploring the structure and
dynamics of materials
at the nanoscale
. The process of neutron scattering is non
results that cannot be achieved by other technique
Neutron scattering research
Neutrons are used to study the dynamics of chemical reactions at interfaces
biochemical engineering, food sciences,
and molecular biology.
Neutrons can probe deep into solid objects such as turbine blades, gas pipelines and welds to
give a unique microscopic insight into the strains and stresses that affect the operational
lifetimes of these crucial engineering compone
Neutron studies of nano
dimensional systems and magnetism impact upon next
data storage, sensors
ISIS is strongly placed to help provide solutions to major sociologi
cal and technological
problems of the 21
ISIS plays a vital role in the portfolio of analysis techniques
used by researchers for areas as varied as energy, nanotechnology, materials processing,
drug design and pharmaceuticals, bio
green technology for a clean
Examples include studies of:
hydrogen absorption in new materials designed for hydrogen storage, clean energy
and alternative fuels for transport
solvents and lubricants for use in industry
and in the home
stress and fatigue in components from aerospace, transport and power generation
the structure of pharmaceutical compounds
the breakdown of environmental contamination by natural enzymes
compatible materials for healthcare
Key facts and figures
000 users from over 30 different countries per year
publications per year
700 experiments per year
1100 experiment proposals per year
Experiment length varies from 1 day to 2 weeks
, but typically 3
4 days duration
r around 15
0 days per year, in
run cycles of 30
ISIS operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week during a run cycle.
ISIS employs around 360 staff
7 neutron instruments on TS2, 22
neutron instruments on TS1, 7 muon
instruments on TS1, a
nd 4 neutron instruments in the TS2 Phase 2 project being
ISIS is FREE to use for academic researchers, provided the results are published in
the public domain. If users want control of the intellectual property, then beam time
can be purchased.
ISIS is FREE to use for industry under the ISIS Collaborative R&D programme. If the
company wishes to protect its IP, then they must pay back the costs of their
beamtime at ISIS.
Annual operating costs of ISIS are
around £30 million; 20% of that cost is f
since opening in 1984
% of ISIS research is in some way connected with industry
UK in Partnership with
ISIS makes neutrons by firing high
energy beams of protons
at 84% light speed
tungsten target. The protons are accelerated to
high energy using a circular synchrotron
accelerator with a circumference of 163 metres.
Neutrons are rel
eased from the target and then channelled along beamlines to neutron
instruments surrounding the targets.
Material samples to be investigated are placed in the neutron beams. Atoms inside the
materials scatter neutrons in all directions which are recorde
d in detectors surrounding the
Scientists using the instruments for their experiments must then work out the molecular
structures of the sample material by interpreting the collected data. When this has been
worked out, the physical and
chemical properties of the materials can be understood.
What’s new at ISIS?
The £145 million ISIS Second Target Station Project started operating in October 2008
enabling the ISIS science programme to expand into the key research areas of soft matter,
anced materials and bio
Funding for a second phase of instruments to be built 2011
2014 was announced in March
2011 by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts. The £21 million funding, together
with additional contributions from ISIS par
tner countries, will finance the construction of four
new instruments within the phase two instruments project: Chipir, Imat, Larmor and Zoom.
Both target stations will operate for at least another 20 years.
ISIS has been operating for
years. The source was approved in 1977, first
neutrons were produced in late 1984 and ISIS was officially inaugurated in October 1985
then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Funding for the ISIS Second Target Station project was announced by Lo
rd Sainsbury (then
Science Minister) in spring 2003 to increase capacity and scientific capabilities.
The Second Target Station produced first neutrons in August 2008
ments other STFC facilities such as
synchrotron light sources and lasers.
scattering and muon spectroscopy are frequently used by scientists as part of wider research
programmes providing unique and complementary information.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is an independent, non
body of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).
formed as a
esearch Council on 1 April 2007 and is
one of seven national research
uncils in the UK.
s a science
driven organisation, and makes it
possible for a broad range of scientists
to do the highest quality research tackling some of the most f
undamental scientific questions.
This is done
funding researchers in universities directly through grants particularly in astronomy,
cs, space science and nuclear physics.
providing access to world
class facilities in the UK, including
the Central Laser Facility, high performance computing using HPCx
the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes
the Lovell Telescope at
Jodrell Bank Observatory
near Machester. STFC is
also a major stakeholder in the
Diamond Light Source, which started operations in 2008.
providing a broad range of scientific and technical expertise in the UK in space and
sed astronomy technologies, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing,
particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications
providing access to world
class facilities overseas, including CERN, the European
Observatory (ESO), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF),
the Institut Laue
Langevin (ILL) and telescope facilities in Chile, Hawaii, La Palma,
researchers to create new businesses based on their discoveries an
s establish spin
companies to use the
research as the basis of new or
improved products and services.
deployed at 7 locations
where the headquarters is based; the
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which is part
of the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
in Oxfordshire; the Daresbury Laboratory, which is part of the Daresbury Science and
Innovation Campus in Cheshire; the Chilbolton Observatory in Hampshire; the UK Astronomy
Technology Centre in Edinburgh; the I
saac Newton Group of Telescopes on La Palma in the
Canary Islands; and the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hawaii.
distributes public money from the Government to support scientific re
2008 and 2009 it
vest approximately £787 million
to support UK research.
Building the ISIS Second Target Station
million construction of a
Second Target S
tation at ISIS will reinforce its position as
the world’s leading neutron spallati
on source. The current target station (Target Station 1)
now at capacity and the new facility will accommodate more instruments (
capacity for 18)
to make use of the bright source of
wavelength, low energy neutrons
Both of these factors allow for an increased capability and spectrum of
The focus of research at the ISIS Secon
d Target Station Project is
The Second Target Station Project will keep the UK at the forefront of neutron research. It will
enable scientists to continue to make breakthroughs in materials research for the next
generation of super
fast computers, data storage, sensors, pharmaceutica
l and medical
applications, materials processing, catalysis, biotechnology and clean energy technology.
ISIS is the major facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and has been operating for
over twenty years.
To allow construction of
the 2nd target station, a 750,000 tonne chalk hill had to be moved
Because the site is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a forest of 18,000 trees
. The new hill has been shaped to resemble the natural contours of the area.
ng the construction phase of the building, 450 contractors worked full time
installation phase 300 people are involved in the project. Six fully loaded cranes working
simultaneously are used in the installation
Because of the strength require
d in the structure, the frame of the building has twice the
amount of steel required for a
normal building. The ISIS Secon
d Target Station
building has a
floor loading of 50 tonnes per square metre (compared to an average 5 tonnes per square
metre for comm
ercial buildings). This is unique and reflects the amount of steel and concrete
used in the installation, particularly the monolith.
The site runs from 4 11KV power stations which produce 17 megawatts of power.
The Tunnel and Proton Beam
The proton beam is delivered to the target through an area known as the
The 800 MeV proton beam from the ISIS synchrotron travels approximately 143m to the
target. The beam consists of
protons travelling together in two bunc
hes at 84% of
the speed of light, separated by just 250 nanoseconds. The whole process takes 10
milliseconds from start to finish, during which time the protons have travelled 1655km, the
equivalent of a journey from London to Aberdeen and back. This happe
ns 50 times a second.
The beam travels in a stainless steel vacuum vessel surrounded by thirty
magnets and eight bending magnets which keep it in alignment.
23,000 tonnes of steel are placed around the beam as a protection against radiat
maintenance entrance to the tunnel is known as the labyrinth and turns at right angles so that
radioactive particles cannot follow.
The structure which houses the neutron target is called the monolith. It is 7.5m high and 12m
eter. The walls are a combination of steel (4m thick) encased in 1m of concrete. Over
5,000 tonnes of special cast steel from Corus surrounds the target to ensure its safe working
operation. There are also 1000 tonnes of steel below ground to shield ground
radiation and a further 1000 tonnes of concrete outer shielding.
Because of the highly radioactive nature of the
area, maintenance can only be carried
out using robotic arms. The steel structure that holds the target is wheeled in and
out on a
built trolley running on guide rails.
The proton beam is trained on a cylinder of tungsten
just 6cm wide and 30cm long.
is clad in tantalum to prevent corrosion, cooled from its surface with deuterated water (D
and surrounded by a water cooled beryllium reflector. One target lasts for approximately five
Seven new instruments
for neutron scattering are
ilable at the Second
These will provide new opportunities in surfa
ce science, disordered materials, magnetic
diffraction, small angle neutron scattering and slow dynamics.
The instruments are surrounded by
blocks filled with boron and wax. This
provides protection from radiation for t
hose carrying out e
xperiments and stops neutrons from
one beamline interfering with experiments on neighbouring beamlines.
There is capacity for a maximum of 18 instru
ments to be installed at the new target station.
As well as producing muons, ISIS is also
an intense source of muons. Muons are used just
for exploring substances at the atomic level so that we can better understand
what their atoms are doing. Muons just provide a different way to do this. They can give us
information that is
complementary to neutrons, so that some people use both neutrons and
muons to explore the same samples. Like neutrons, we can use muons to study magnetic or
superconducting samples, or molecular materials, or semiconductors.
What is a muon?! A muon i
s actually a heavy version of an electron
about 200 times
heavier in fact. Muons come in positive and negative varieties. They are not part of the
normal stuff of matter around us
they are made specially by collisions between the ISIS
proton beam and
a thin carbon target that is located about 20m upstream of the neutron
target on TS
1. Muons only live for about 2 millionths of a second
so we have to do all our
measurements with them in about this time
but that is amply long enough for them to get
eye view of the substance we fire them into.
The muon fa
cility on the south side of
(which we call the European muon
facility) was built about 20 years ago, with funding from several European countries. On the
other side of
is the RIKEN
RAL muon facility
built and run by the Japanese, a very
large UK/Japan science collaboration
that has been running for over 20 years and will carry
on until 2017
. ISIS is the only pulsed muon facility in Europe, and one of only two pulsed
muon facilities in the world (the other is at J
PARC in Japan). There are two more muon
facilities in the world that use continuous rather than pulsed beams
in Canada and in
ISIS Second Target Station
ISIS accelerator and target station one begin operating
ISIS inaugurated by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
First Science and Technical Advisory Committee
Detailed planning approval
Approve initial instrument suite
Approve target station design concept
First project board
Complete earth moving and landscaping
Complete access road 10
Complete R78 technical support building
Begin R80 experimental hall construction
Complete R80 structural frame
Complete target monolith foundation
Complete R80 construction
Complete target services area structure
Begin extracted proton beam installation in synchrotron
Complete target services area equipment
Complete extracted proton beam
First proton beam to target area
Begin instrument neutron guides
Begin first phase instrument detectors
Begin instrument commissioning
First complete instrument installation
First measurable neutrons from target
Target core fully operational
First neutrons produced
Start of experimental programme
with seven instruments operational
Phase 2 instruments project begins
Phase 2 instruments project completed
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus with ISIS in the foreground
Interior of ISIS target
, operational since 1984
Interior of ISIS target station 2
completed during 2009