ISIS: Background information


Dec 5, 2012 (3 years and 11 months ago)


: B
ackground information

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
escribed as

ISIS supports an international community of
around 3000

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
technology. Th
e US and Japan
have constructed
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
and produce
results that cannot be achieved by other technique

Neutron scattering research

Neutrons are used to study the dynamics of chemical reactions at interfaces

chemical and
biochemical engineering, food sciences,
drug synthesis

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
particles, low
dimensional systems and magnetism impact upon next
generation computer
and IT

data storage, sensors

and superconducting

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
technology and

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


runs fo
r around 15
0 days per year, in
run cycles of 30
45 days

ISIS operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week during a run cycle.

ISIS employs around 360 staff

There are
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

Around 10,000

scientific publications
since opening in 1984

% of ISIS research is in some way connected with industry

UK in Partnership with

























How does
ISIS work?

ISIS makes neutrons by firing high
energy beams of protons
at 84% light speed
into a
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
sample material.

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 History

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

ISIS compl
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.

About STFC

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is an independent, non
body of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).
STFC was

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,
particle physi
cs, space science and nuclear physics.

providing access to world
class facilities in the UK, including

neutron and
muon source
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
and radar.

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,
Australia and.


researchers to create new businesses based on their discoveries an
s establish spin

companies to use the
results of

research as the basis of new or
improved products and services.


staff are

deployed at 7 locations
: Swindon

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
search. Between
2008 and 2009 it

will in
vest approximately £787 million
to support UK research.

Building the ISIS Second Target Station

The £145

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 (
7 currently

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


Soft Matter

Advanced Materials

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.

The Structure

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

was planted
. 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
During the
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
proton beam
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
five quadruple
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
ion. The
maintenance entrance to the tunnel is known as the labyrinth and turns at right angles so that
radioactive particles cannot follow.

The Monolith

The structure which houses the neutron target is called the monolith. It is 7.5m high and 12m
in diam
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

water from
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 Target

The proton beam is trained on a cylinder of tungsten

just 6cm wide and 30cm long.
The target
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

The Instruments

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.

Muons as

As well as producing muons, ISIS is also
an intense source of muons. Muons are used just
like neutrons

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
TS1 hall

(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

July 2002


Detailed planning approval

March 2003

Approve initial instrument suite

June 2003

Approve target station design concept

July 2003

First project board

October 2003

Complete earth moving and landscaping

November 2003


Complete access road 10

October 2004

Complete R78 technical support building

November 2004


Begin R80 experimental hall construction

January 2005

Complete R80 structural frame

May 2005

Complete target monolith foundation

September 2005

R80 weather

November 2005


Complete R80 construction

March 2006


Complete target services area structure

January 2007

Begin extracted proton beam installation in synchrotron

February 2007

Complete target services area equipment

December 2007

Complete target

December 2007

Complete extracted proton beam

September 2007

First proton beam to target area

December 2007


Begin instrument neutron guides

January 2008

Begin first phase instrument detectors

March 2008

Begin instrument commissioning

April 2008

First complete instrument installation

June 2008

First measurable neutrons from target



Target core fully operational

July 2008

First neutrons produced

August 2008

Start of experimental programme

October 2008


Project complete

with seven instruments operational

August 2009


Phase 2 instruments project begins

March 2011


Phase 2 instruments project completed

June 2015

Harwell Science and Innovation Campus with ISIS in the foreground

Interior of ISIS target
station 1
, operational since 1984

Interior of ISIS target station 2

completed during 2009