A research facility to drive forward technological progress
The European Spallation Source (ESS) will be the world's most powerful source of neutrons, a key tool in advancing materials science and technological progress. An EU-funded project has supported the development of ESS, which could lead to scientific breakthroughs that improve our quality of life.
© 2018, Roger Eriksson/ European Spallation Source
The need to understand materials and molecules has always been at the centre of scientific and technological progress. Intense beams of neutrons are one of the most powerful tools for examining the structure, composition, properties and dynamics of materials.
Under construction in Lund, Sweden, ESS is a next-generation neutron source aiming to bringing about breakthroughs in fields including energy, health and the environment. It thus has the potential to address some of the most important societal challenges of our time.
Building ESS was a complex task with many challenges. The EU-funded BRIGHTNESS project moved the technical and organisational aspects of the work forward to create a modern, high-performance research infrastructure able to deliver world-class science and new insights.
The project team brought additional knowledge and skills of European companies and research institutes to the development and operation of ESS. It also optimised technology transfer between ESS, industry and academia, as well as opening up possibilities for collaboration with non-European partners, thereby establishing ESS as a research facility of global importance.
The BRIGHTNESS project successfully helped to mitigate risks relative to the delivery of ESS one of the largest science and technology infrastructure projects being built in Europe today, says ESS Director-General John Womersley. The unique capabilities of the ESS facility will provide new opportunities for researchers across the spectrum of scientific discovery, including materials and life sciences, energy, environmental technology, cultural heritage and fundamental physics.
New research areas
State-of-the-art neutron detector technology to support analysis at ESS was developed, tested and optimised under BRIGHTNESS. Another technical highlight of the project is the improved understanding of the moderators used to create neutrons of the right energy. The formulation of novel solutions for the ESS moderators led to the production of two to three times more useful neutrons than earlier designs.
This optimisation of its moderators helped increase the brightness of the ESS neutron beams, allowing them to maintain performance levels using less than half the power originally foreseen. As a result, ESS is able to deliver beams some 20 times brighter than many current sources, expanding the use of neutron methods to cover new areas of research and providing new experimental options.
Improving everyday life
Moderators are a key feature of the ESS target station, where beams interact with a tungsten target to release neutrons (the spallation process), which the moderators then slow down for use in experiments. The design of the target station directly affects the number of neutrons that can be generated, and is therefore of vital importance for the scientific capabilities of ESS.
According to the BRIGHTNESS project coordinator Anne-Charlotte Joubert, the set-up of the ESS target station represents a game-changer for spallation source technology.
BRIGHTNESS contribution to the improved understanding of moderator physics and the development of engineering solutions for novel moderator design at ESS will reverberate throughout the global neutron science community, she says. Neutron research is important for the development of new and better computer chips, batteries, plastics, pharmaceuticals, clean energy and so on. In the long-run, the technological and scientific impact of ESS will be visible in everyday lives of citizens.