Source: Mirage News | ORNL Release | December 12, 2019

Tom Russell presents on how SNS’s Second Target Station will help researchers learn more about soft matter materials at the Science at the Second Target Station Workshop. (Credit: ORNL/Genevieve Martin)

Soft matter materials like polymers, proteins, and lipids are critical components of everything from pharmaceuticals to batteries. Learning more about these materials will dramatically increase the quality of products and technologies consumers around the world rely on every day.

To accelerate this new era of innovation, the Second Target Station (STS) at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) will allow researchers to probe soft matter samples with neutrons of very different energies at the exact same time. The higher-energy neutrons let researchers explore the minute details of a material’s structure and the arrangement of atoms, while the lower-energy neutrons give researchers a comprehensive understanding of a material at much larger length scales. Whereas researchers currently have to conduct multiple experiments in order to get both sets of information, STS will give them the power to gather it all during a single experiment, greatly increasing the speed with which manufacturers can produce the next generation of advanced soft matter materials.

“Imagine being able to study the features of a single tree, while developing a detailed understanding of the entire forest it resides in at the same time. That’s the kind of observational power this new facility will give us,” said Tom Russell, Silvio O. Conte Distinguished Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Russell, who specializes in polymer and soft matter research, recently spoke at the Science at the Second Target Station Workshop about the different ways SNS’s Second Target Station will improve our ability to understand complicated soft matter systems like hydrogels, oils, and polymers.

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