Summary

The National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) is a national user facility whose mission is to ensure the availability of neutron measurement capabilities in order to meet the needs of U.S. researchers from industry, academia, and government agencies. This mission is aligned with the mission of NIST, which is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve the quality of life.

As requested by the Director of NIST, the scope of the assessment included the following criteria: (1) the technical merit of the current laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide; (2) the adequacy of the laboratory facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the laboratory technical programs; and (3) the degree to which the laboratory programs in measurement science and standards achieve their stated objectives and desired impact. In addition to these three criteria, the panel was asked by the Director of NIST to assess the projects within the laboratory conducted under the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which supports the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).1

The NCNR is an extremely reliable and comprehensive neutron scattering facility. Even as the other neutron source in the nation—the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS)—becomes increasingly operational and the Oak Ridge High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) comes back online, the NCNR will continue to be a vital resource for meeting the broad spectrum of user needs for and scientific objectives related to neutron scattering. The NCNR reliably provides a high flux of neutrons to an evolving suite of high-quality instruments and sample environments. The publication record of the NCNR staff and associated researchers attests to the high quality and quantity of research in diverse areas of fundamental neutron science and condensed-matter physics and engineering.

The ongoing NCNR Expansion Project is critical for maintaining the vitality and capabilities of the facility. The selection and reconfiguration of a new suite of spectrometers are logical and well suited to the present climate for neutron research. The new Configuration Control Program that has been established to coordinate new hardware changes with both the Reactor Operations Engineering Division and the Research Facility Operations Division will be very important in ensuring a smooth transition from the present structure of the facility to the new, expanded configuration to be established over the next few years.

The NCNR is recognized for the exceptionally high quality of technical support provided to users of its facilities. A significant component of this support is the Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS) Program, which supports users and outreach activities. In order to maintain the present high level of activities, the NCNR

1

See Domestic Policy Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2006, American Competitiveness Initiative, Washington, D.C. “America COMPETES Act” is the short title for the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69).



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Summary The National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST] Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) is a national user facility whose mission is to ensure the availability of neutron measurement capabilities in order to meet the needs of U.S. researchers from industry, academia, and government agencies. This mission is aligned with the mission of NIST, which is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve the quality of life. As requested by the Director of NIST, the scope of the assessment included the following criteria: (1) the technical merit of the current laboratory programs relative to the current state of the art worldwide; (2) the adequacy of the laboratory facilities, equipment, and human resources, as they affect the quality of the laboratory technical programs; and (3) the degree to which the laboratory programs in measurement science and standards achieve their stated objectives and desired impact. In addition to these three criteria, the panel was asked by the Director of NIST to assess the projects within the laboratory conducted under the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which supports the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI).1 The NCNR is an extremely reliable and comprehensive neutron scattering facility. Even as the other neutron source in the nation—the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS)— becomes increasingly operational and the Oak Ridge High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) comes back online, the NCNR will continue to be a vital resource for meeting the broad spectrum of user needs for and scientific objectives related to neutron scattering. The NCNR reliably provides a high flux of neutrons to an evolving suite of high-quality instruments and sample environments. The publication record of the NCNR staff and associated researchers attests to the high quality and quantity of research in diverse areas of fundamental neutron science and condensed-matter physics and engineering. The ongoing NCNR Expansion Project is critical for maintaining the vitality and capabilities of the facility. The selection and reconfiguration of a new suite of spectrometers are logical and well suited to the present climate for neutron research. The new Configuration Control Program that has been established to coordinate new hardware changes with both the Reactor Operations Engineering Division and the Research Facility Operations Division will be very important in ensuring a smooth transition from the present structure of the facility to the new, expanded configuration to be established over the next few years. The NCNR is recognized for the exceptionally high quality of technical support provided to users of its facilities. A significant component of this support is the Center for High Resolution Neutron Scattering (CHRNS) Program, which supports users and outreach activities. In order to maintain the present high level of activities, the NCNR 1 See Domestic Policy Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2006, American Competitiveness Initiative, Washington, D.C. “America COMPETES Act” is the short title for the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69). 1

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Expansion Project needs to hire additional instrument scientists and engineers; this objective is being aggressively pursued. The NCNR has a strong, vibrant user community, including an increasing presence of non-NCNR NIST scientists and engineers. The NCNR User Group (NUG) rates the training facilities and instruments as “good” to “excellent.” NCNR personnel are an essential element of the scientific output, and users evaluated their performance as “excellent.” The NCNR management is responsive to ideas generated by the NUG. For example, in response to concerns regarding sample environment, the NCNR has purchased a new, large-bore magnet and has initiated a Small Grants Program to help users develop and build new sample environment systems. Developing the next generation of neutron scattering scientists and engineers is a vital part of the NCNR’s program. This work is assisted through the training of postdoctoral scholars working at the NCNR and is strongly advanced though the CHRNS summer schools and graduate student fellowships. The following recommendations are directed at further enhancing the effectiveness of the NCNR in the pursuit of its goals. The NCNR should carry out the following: • Enhance the soft-condensed-matter efforts of the facility in the following ways: — Continue the development of new technical capabilities that will allow the NCNR to maintain leadership in key research areas that complement those of other facilities such as the SNS and HFIR; — Aggressively pursue the ongoing recruitment effort for a scientific leader in experimental soft condensed matter; — Continue the development of the soft-matter consortium between the NCNR, the Polymers Division in the NIST Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory, and the University of Delaware; — Vigorously search for a biochemist jointly with the NIST Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory (CSTL) to participate in the rejuvenation of biological topics at the NCNR; — Increase network building with bioscientists in other institutions; and — Broaden the theory effort in the directions of statistical physics and biophysics. • Sustain NCNR operation and reactor maintenance efforts during the NCNR Expansion Project by carrying out the following: — Schedule all of the planned reactor upgrades, including the repair of the thermal heat shield, the upgrade of the reactor control instrumentation, the installation of a spent-fuel pool liner, and the installation of the second cold neutron source; — Dialogue with the NUG concerning access to facilities during the construction phase; and — Continue actively attending to the matter of maintaining the 2

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scientific openness of the facility within the constraints of increasing security demands. • Continue improvements to the user program including the following: — Plan for substantially expanded outreach (for example, workshops and extended scientific programs) when the planned new office building becomes available; — Maintain the regular rotation schedule of new members onto the Beam Time Allocation Committee; and — Increase attention to data access and improved analysis software for users after they leave the NCNR. 3