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Neutron Spin Filters

3He Neutron Spin Filters

Nuclear spin polarized 3He gas, produced by optical pumping, can be used to polarize or analyze neutron beams because of the strong spin dependence of the neutron absorption cross section for 3He. Compared to commonly used neutron polarizers such as supermirrors and Heusler crystals, neutron spin filters (NSF) have these advantages: 1) they are broadband and can polarize cold, thermal or hot neutrons effectively; 2) they can polarize large area and large divergence neutron beams without adding beam divergence; 3) they are in-line add-on devices, and 4) they can efficiently flip the neutron polarization by reversing the 3He nuclear polarization. This last capability can be performed using the adiabatic fast passage nuclear magnetic resonance technique, thus integrating the polarizer and the flipper into a single neutron polarizing device.

Polarized 3He is used to provide polarized beam capability for various instruments at the NIST Center for Neutron Research. The process involves the polarization of 3He gas contained within a glass cell which is placed on the instrument. By this method, polarized 3He can be used to polarize the neutron beam (polarizer) and/or select out the chosen spin state (analyzer). The high density of polarized 3He gas (1019 to 1020 cm−3) required for an effective neutron polarizer can be produced using two optical pumping methods: spin-exchange (SEOP) {Walker97 , BCV60}, which is performed directly at high pressure (1-10 bar), and metastability-exchange (MEOP){CSW63}, in which the gas is polarized at low pressure (1 mbar) and then compressed. More detail is provided through the reference links below about neutron spin filters.

The NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) initiated a polarized 3He neutron spin filter program in 2006. The goal is to polarize and/or analyze neutron beams for neutron scattering instruments where 3He NSFs are advantageous. At the NCNR, polarized 3He NSF devices have been applied to diffuse reflectometry, small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), and thermal neutron triple-axis spectrometry (TAS). Applications to more instruments (Multi Axis Crystal Spectrometer, Disk Chopper time-of-flight spectrometer, BT-1 powder diffractometer, Materials Diffractometer, MAGIK reflectometer) are under development. For more information about the capabilities specific to the NCNR neutron spin filter program, please select the provided links.


Created November 29, 2017, Updated February 13, 2023