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Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering

Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering


The Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering is the home of neutron science in Australia and a leading facility in the Asia Oceania region

It is part of an international network of organisations with neutron sources that delivers world-competitive neutron scattering science from Australian and international users. Research at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering been used to determine the internal structure of many types of materials, helping scientists understand why materials have the properties they do, and helping tailor new materials, devices and systems.

ACNS Scatter Matters Newsletter #2 (PDF, 1.41 MB)

ACNS Scatter Matters Newsletter #1 (PDF, 1.73 MB)

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Year neutrons supply instruments


Neutron beam instruments


Publications in 2017


There are 15 neutron beam instruments, which are classified into four main groups: diffractometers, small-angle spectrometers imaging and reflectometry instruments and  inelastic spectrometers.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology funded the construction of a cold neutron triple-axis spectrometer, Sika, which was constructed by National Central University. The National Synchrotron Radiation Research Centre (NSRRC) commissioned the instrument, introduced it into the international user program and promotes its use to users in Taiwan.

Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin agreed to the transfer of their BioRef reflectometer, which will be known as Spatz. It is currently being commissioned. Unlike Platypus which operates in a vertical scattering plane, Spatz operates in the horizontal scattering plane and has an infrared  spectrometer. 

The suite of instruments and operating cabins are housed in the Neutron Guide Hall, which also accommodates sample preparation areas, laboratories and other technical support facilities. The Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering also operates three X-ray instruments, a helium polarising instrument and a physical properties measurement system.

  • Wombat High Intensity Powder Diffractometer

    Wombat High Intensity Powder Diffractometer

    Wombat is one of the fastest neutron powder instruments in the world. It is used to  explore a broad range of materials, including: novel hydrogen-storage materials, negative-thermal-expansion materials, methane-ice clathrates, piezoelectrics, high performance battery anodes and cathodes, high strength alloys, multiferroics, superconductors and novel magnetic materials. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Vombatus ursinus.

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  • Echidna High Resolution Powder Diffractometer

    Echidna High Resolution Powder Diffractometer

    Neutron powder diffraction is particularly useful for materials with light elements in the presence of heavy ones (e.g. oxides, borides, carbides, etc.) and for magnetic materials; for example, materials such as superconductors, pharmaceuticals, aerospace alloys, cements, minerals, zeolites, hydrogen-storage media and optical materials. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Tachyglossus aculeatus.

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  • Koala Laue Diffractometer

    Koala Laue Diffractometer

    Single-crystal diffraction of X-rays or neutrons on Koala is the best way of determining the structures of crystalline materials.  Neutron single-crystal diffraction is absolutely essential to determine the accurate positions of hydrogen atoms in solids, and to determine the arrangements of magnetic moments in solids.  The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Phascolarctos cinereus.

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  • Kowari Strain Scanner

    Kowari Strain Scanner

    The basic idea of strain scanning is to perform a spatially-resolved diffraction experiment, and determine the lattice parameters for the phase or phases  of interest in a predetermined location inside of an engineering component.  The object, which may be as large as a whole engine block, is translated and rotated to map out the strains and therefore the stresses within it. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Dasyuroides byrnei.

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  • Platypus Neutron Reflectometer

    Platypus Neutron Reflectometer

    Neutron reflectometry on Platypus can be used for the study of all-manner of surface-science and interface problems, particularly related to magnetic recording materials and for polymer coatings, biosensors and artificial biological membranes. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Ornithorhynchus anatinus.

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  • Quokka Small Angle Neutron Scattering Instrument

    Quokka Small Angle Neutron Scattering Instrument

    Small-angle scattering (SANS) on Quokka is a powerful technique for looking at sizes and structures of objects on the nanoscale, such as polymer molecules, biological molecules, defect structures in metals and ceramics, pores in rocks, magnetic clusters, and magnetic flux lines in type-II superconductors.  In studies of soft matter, the contrast-variation method (replacing hydrogen with deuterium) can be used. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Setonix brachyurus.

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  • Taipan Thermal Triple Axis Spectrometer

    Taipan Thermal Triple Axis Spectrometer

    Taipan is a perfect tool developed for the study of collective motions of atoms in solid. It is ideal for the study of phonons and magnons in materials, and in studying the physics of phase transitions and processes where thermal energy is involved. These include strong magnets, superconductors and strange metallic states. The instrument is named after the Australian reptile Oxyuranus scutellatus.

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  • Kookaburra Ultra Small Angle Neutron Scattering Instrument

    Kookaburra Ultra Small Angle Neutron Scattering Instrument

    Ultra-small-angle neutron scattering (USANS) on Kookaburra is a method for studying the size and shape of objects of size 10 micrometres and below.  It is useful for studies of pores and cracks in rocks, cement or engineering materials, very large biological or polymer molecules or macromolecular assemblies, and mesoscopic magnetic particles. The instrument is named after the Australian bird Dacelo novaeguineae.

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  • Pelican Time of Flight Spectrometer

    Pelican Time of Flight Spectrometer

    Pelican is designed to measure inelastic neutron scattering, or to do neutron spectroscopy.  Time-of-flight spectrometers are used much more heavily in chemistry and in studies of soft matter for investigations of polycrystalline, glassy and liquid samples. The instrument is named after the Australian bird Pelecanus conspicillatus.


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  • Dingo - Neutron Imaging

    Dingo - Neutron Imaging

    Neutron imaging on Dingo is used to see hydrogenous materials inside metallic or ceramic objects.  Neutron tomography reconstructs a full three-dimensional image of an object on a computer. This can be very useful with very rare fossils or valuable ancient artefacts, as one may be able to see what is inside them, without destroying them.  The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Canis lupus dingo.

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  • Sika Triple Axis Spectrometer

    Sika Triple Axis Spectrometer

    The combination of high neutron flux, good energy and momentum resolution, low background and a large dynamic range makes Sikaideally suited to study of spin and lattice dynamics, magnon and phonon dispersion relations in single crystal sample, relaxation phenomena, critical scattering, soft-modes, and relaxation-effects in complex fluids, magnetism, ionic conductors, catalysts, hydrogen storage and functional energy-related materials. The instrument is named after the East Asian deer Cervus nippon.

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  • Bilby Small Angle Neutron Scattering Instrument

    Bilby Small Angle Neutron Scattering Instrument

    Bilby is also a small angle neutron scattering instrument that operate in time-of-flight mode using a wide range of wavelengths in a single measurement.  It is very well suited for the study of kinetic effects, like relaxation following a chemical reaction, or external impulses such as mechanical deformation, an electric or magnetic field. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Macrotis lagotis.

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  • Emu High-Resolution Backscattering Spectrometer

    Emu High-Resolution Backscattering Spectrometer

    Emu is typically used to study  diffusing water molecules or yet larger molecules like polymers or biological molecules. In addition, Emu reveals the quantum-mechanical tunnelling between equivalent orientations of molecular groups. The instrument is named after the Australian mammal Dromaius novaehollandiae. 

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  • Joey Neutron Laue Camera

    Joey Neutron Laue Camera

    Joey is a Laue-diffraction neutron alignment camera that is used to assist in the characterisation and alignment of single crystals prior to an experiment on one of the high-flux instruments, such Taipan, Sika, Koala, Wombat and Echidna.  The instrument is named after the young of the Australian mammal Macropus rufus.

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  • Spatz Neutron Reflectometer

    Spatz Neutron Reflectometer

    Spatz is a neutron reflectometer that operates in the horizontal scattering plane geometry with reflection from a vertical surface. This has some advantages for solid-air, buried solid-solid and solid-liquid interfaces. In addition, the detector can be swung to much larger angles allowing measurement of diffraction from multilayers and lamellar stacks.  The instrument is named after a bird Passer domesticus, a sparrow, known as Spatz in German.

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Submit an instrument proposal




Neutrons are subatomic particles released in nuclear fission. They have no electrical charge and penetrate materials more effectively than X-rays. This ability makes neutrons an especially useful tool in industrial materials analysis.

Neutron scattering is a technique used to find answers to fundamental questions about the structure and composition of materials used in medicine, mining, transportation, building, engineering, food processing and scientific research.

Neutrons penetrate most materials to depths of several centimetres. In comparison, X-rays and electrons probe only near the surface.

X-rays and electrons are scattered by atomic electrons whereas neutrons are scattered by atomic nuclei. This results in a number of differences, perhaps the most important being in the scattering from light elements. Whereas one electron on a hydrogen atom can be hard to find by X-ray or electron diffraction, the hydrogen nucleus scatters neutrons strongly and is easily found in a neutron diffraction experiment.

Neutrons, though electrically neutral, act as small magnets, and are uniquely powerful in the atomic scale study of magnetism.

Neutrons are also uniquely suited to the study of the dynamic processes (e.g. thermal vibrations) in solids.

Sample environments and other capabilities

How it works

Diffraction pattern_Koala

Neutrons created by fission from two sources in the OPAL multipurpose reactor are directed into beams that feed a suite of 15 state-of- the-art neutron instruments. Beams of neutrons are used to probe very small samples. Because they can behave as particle or waves with a magnetic moment,  their special properties reveal information about structure and dynamics at the atomic scale. Although neutrons interact with the nuclei of atoms, they are non-invasive in that they do not change a sample nor deposit energy into it. 

For the diffraction instruments, a sample is placed within a neutron beam and the angles at which the neutrons are deflected or scattered by the material are recorded to generate a “diffraction pattern” from which structural information can be extracted.



Dr Jamie Schulz

Leader, Australian Centre for neutron Scattering

Prof Garry McIntyre

Research Leader, Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering

Dr Anna Paradowska

Industrial Liaison Manager
Senior Research Scientist