Source: Miragenews.com | September 16, 2020

ORNL's remote access experiment program enables scientists around the world to use the laboratory's neutron sources during the pandemic. By sending samples to the lab and providing remote, real-time direction to ORNL instrument scientists, external researchers can take part in various neutron experiments without setting foot on campus. Pictured top-right, clockwise: Xing He, Olivier Delaire, Jack Bateman, Jingxuan Ding, Shan Yang, Minh Phan, Mayank Gupta, Tyson Lanigan-Atkins. Credit: ORNL/Jill Hemman

ORNL’s remote access experiment program enables scientists around the world to use the laboratory’s neutron sources during the pandemic. By sending samples to the lab and providing remote, real-time direction to ORNL instrument scientists, external researchers can take part in various neutron experiments without setting foot on campus. Pictured top-right, clockwise: Xing He, Olivier Delaire, Jack Bateman, Jingxuan Ding, Shan Yang, Minh Phan, Mayank Gupta, Tyson Lanigan-Atkins. Credit: ORNL/Jill Hemman

How can scientists conduct experiments if they can’t be in the same room with their samples and instruments? That was the challenge the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) faced when the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold.

“The High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) and the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) were two of the few neutron sources in the world that didn’t shut down completely as a result of the pandemic. At first, these facilities were utilized for research related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We then gradually opened our operating instruments to run other experiments.” said ORNL Neutron Scattering Division Director Hans Christen.

The HFIR and the SNS at ORNL, two of the most powerful neutron sources in the world, attract hundreds of researchers to the laboratory each year to utilize the facilities’ cutting-edge, world-class technology.

However, as the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise globally, ORNL set restrictions on campus visits to minimize the risk of transmission and maintain the ability to support critical missions. Although external researchers still cannot physically enter the laboratory at this time, ORNL’s temporary remote access experiment program continues to enable scientists to use the neutron sources without setting foot on campus.

The program allows researchers with approved proposals to send their samples to the laboratory and provide remote, real-time direction as internal instrument scientists perform neutron scattering experiments on their behalf.

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