Scientific operations resume at Berlin-based neutron source

After a roughly one-and-a-half-year hiatus, scientific operations have resumed at BER II, the Berlin-based neutron source.  In October 2010, BER II was temporarily shut down in order to allow time for extensive retrofitting and maintenance work.  The work included replacement of a beamline used to conduct neutrons from the reactor core into a device known as a neutron guide.  Similar to optical fibers conducting light, neutron guides are used to transmit neutrons to scientific experimental stations.

For several decades now, BER II has been an international flagship for cutting-edge research in Berlin and Germany.  At the same time, it is a highly reliable working facility with a high degree of robusticity as confirmed by stress test experts.  Their appraisal report, which followed a special audit conducted during the shutdown period, confirmed that "there [was] no reason to challenge BER II operations from proceeding as planned."  BER II has thus successfully passed the Senate-coordinated stress test and is once again open for research to both German and international scientist.

As part of BER II's retrofitting, several neutron guides were replaced. In addition, brand new mirror materials, which allow for a five-fold increase in neutron flux during experiments, were installed.  These improvements mean that, in the future, experiments will minimize the time required to obtain measurements, making the measuring instruments available to larger numbers of user groups.  As well, certain types of measurements had never before been possible.  Lastly, all experimental stations were retrofitted and developed. Over the past few years, HZB has invested several million Euros into BER II for the constant and ongoing repair of the neutron source and for pertinent neutron flux and measuring instrument improvements.

The EU is committed to supporting instrument development as well as granting European users access to the Berlin-based neutron source.  The EU program's awarding body has already approved subsidies in the amount of approximately 1.4 million Euros through January 2016.  Of that amount, some 870,000 Euros are designated to guarantee European scientists the necessary time to conduct their measurements as well as cover travel and accommodations expenses.  The remainder of the money has been made available to allow for the deveopment of innovative approaches to instrumentation, including new methods in neutron tomography, cutting-edge humidity chambers for use with biological specimen samples, refrigerant-free cryostats, and new types of neutron diffraction detectors.

HZB operates experimental stations (i.e. measuring instruments) at the BER II neutron source, which are available to both German and international users, allowing them - with the help of neutrons - to conduct research into catalysts, new types of energy storage materials, materials for solar cells, and to investigate phenomena like magnetism and super conductivity to address questions ranging from the field of medical research to those raised by new archaeological finds.

In addition, HZB has committed 9 million Euros total to development of a new kind of spectrometer.  Construction of this prototype will serve as the basis for a study of about a similar instrument whose construction for the ESS, the future European Spallation Source, is currently under way in Sweden and which is expected to be completed within a few years' time.

HZB is an active partner of the ESS and will in fact be hosting this year's ESS Conference "Science and Scientists @ ESS" in April.  The conference is scheduled for April 19th and 20th in Berlin.  Several hundred scientist are expected to attend.