Neutrons are excellent for probing materials on the molecular level – everything from motors and medicine, to plastics and proteins. Detailed studies are dependent on how many neutrons can be produced by a neutron source. This is a significant limitation for existing sources based on nuclear reactors. As a result, scientists and engineers have developed a new generation of neutron sources based on particle accelerators and spallation technology, a much more efficient approach. ESS will provide around 30 times brighter neuutron beams than existing facilities today. The difference between the current neutron sources and ESS is something like the difference between taking a picture in the glow of a candle, or doing it under flash lighting.
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Europe today has more than 5,000 researchers using neutrons. The limitations of reactor technology have long been know, as a concensus among neutron scientists that increased spallation capacity is a necessary step forward. With an improved source there is also the need for ESS to develop increasingly sophisticated detector instruments.
Better sources and better instruments means exponentially more data to collect and analyze. That means the scientists doing research at ESS must be positioned to take full advantage of the last decade of exponential growth in data management capacity and computational power. As a green-field project, built from the ground up not only physically, but organizationally and philosophically, ESS is positioned as the vanguard of the next century of experimental science.
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