A new report issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy finds that neutron probes are becoming increasingly indispensable research tools in fields ranging from biology to materials science, but concludes that only one U.S. facility—the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR)—provides a broad range of world-class capabilities.
Even with the addition of the Spallation Neutron Source, now being built at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the shortfall in resources for neutron-scattering experiments will not be eliminated. "The number of neutron scattering instruments available in the United States, now and in the future, will be less than half that available in Europe and less than available in Japan," writes the federal agency working group that prepared the report.
Patrick Gallagher, head of Research Facilities Operations at the NCNR, chaired the working group.
The OSTP report makes four recommendations for improving the number and quality of instruments at U.S. neutron facilities and for broadening access to scientists. It calls for partnership approaches and coordinating mechanisms aimed at "maximizing the overall effectiveness of the nation's neutron resources."
Funding and developing a "robust suite of instruments" at the SNS was the working group's top priority for implementing its recommendations. The report also called for increased support and improvements in the neutron source and instrumentation at the NIST facility, the working group's second priority.
"The NCNR is the highest performing and most used neutron facility in the United States," the report says. The number of scientists who use the NCNR has quadrupled over the last decade, an increase accommodated by improvements and upgrades. The report points out that additional support would enable the NCNR to "fully exploit" its capability and increase access to the general user community.
The 71-page Report on the Status and Needs of Major Neutron Scattering Facilities and Instruments in the United States can be downloaded (as a PDF file) from the OSTP web site at: www.ostp.gov/html/neutron.pdf. (Note: To read this file, you can download Adobe Acrobat Reader free.)