LENS participates in ECNS for the first time

LENS Vice-Chair Robert McGreevy introducing LENS during the ECNS Opening Ceremony in St. Petersburg.

15 July 2019

Every four years, the community of European scientists, experts, and engineers gathers for a week of discussions on the latest trends in neutron research and technology. The forum that brings them together, the European Conference on Neutron Scattering, was first organised more than two decades ago. Until now, LENS members have participated only as individual facilities, but this year was different. They wore their LENS hat for the first time.

ST. PETERSBURG – The European Conference on Neutron Scattering (ECNS) is a spree of lectures, poster sessions, and expert talks on the current trends and future possibilities in neutron science. The programme spreads over six days and covers a magnitude of topics. If you were among the 570 participants this year, you would have heard how neutron research contributes to studies on gas turbines and batteries, food processing, ancient artefacts, protein structures and more. The variety of presentations demonstrates that neutrons are a unique tool that can be applied across numerous science and technology disciplines.

A European endeavour
All nine LENS members from seven different countries participated in ECNS to present their latest research results and developments in the field of neutron science and technology. The LENS consortium was introduced to the audience in prime time during the opening ceremony. Vice-Chair of LENS, Robert McGreevy from ISIS Neutron and Muon Source in the United Kingdom, underlined that the neutron community has a long history of collaboration which started as a part of the European Union’s Framework Programmes in the 1980s. These programmes were extremely successful. They primarily focused on the scientific and technological developments, but also had a strong outreach component. LENS is a natural outcome of these activities.

The cooperation among the neutron community has been good in the past and we have every opportunity to make it successful in the future.

Robert McGreevy, LENS Vice-Chair

“The formation of the LENS consortium was the next obvious step. LENS is our own framework for collaboration,” said Robert McGreevy. “The cooperation among the neutron community has been good in the past and we have every opportunity to make it successful in the future,” he concluded.

Shortly before ECNS, Working Group 1 of LENS met in Düsseldorf to kick-off activities related to neutron landscape analysis, neutron vision and policies. As the discussions on EU’s next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation culminate, LENS is drafting a paper to position itself vis-à-vis Horizon Europe. The document will be shared with relevant stakeholders after the summer.

ECNS hosted 350 poster presentations. Posters by LENS members were marked with the LENS logo.

With eyes set on the future
The LENS consortium promotes the value of neutron science, helps to support and expand the user community, coordinates training activities, and gives its members a common voice in dialogue with the European Commission and other stakeholders. The LENS brochure that was distributed to all participants at ECNS explains in further detail how the consortium aims to support and strengthen neutron science in Europe.

You can download the LENS brochure here.

The neutron landscape in Europe is changing as several facilities reach the end of their lifecycle. LENS is here to help everyone involved to navigate through the transition. It is in the interests of LENS that users in Europe have steady access to beamtime and that facilities in the consortium stay at the state-of-the-art and offer new possibilities to users. LENS members are already actively working towards this goal. While the construction of the European Spallation Source (ESS) is progressing well aiming at first Science in 2023, the  Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) is implementing its ambitious Endurance programme, MLZ is working on a roadmap that includes new instruments and specialised sample environment, the SINQ at PSI is getting a major upgrade, and colleagues at ISIS have set-up a working group to prepare feasibility studies on several facility upgrade scenarios. More information about the ISIS-II Roadmap is available here.

The collaborative efforts of LENS are not limited to its member base only. LENS has established good working relations with EU-funded projects BrightnESS², PaNOSC, SINE2020, and FILL2030, as well as other bottom-up initiatives such as the Design and Engineering of Neutron Instruments Meetings (DENIM) or International Collaboration for the Development of Neutron Detectors (ICDN).

Celebrating 25 years of ENSA
The mastermind behind ECNS is the European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA), a pan-European umbrella organisation representing users of facilities that generate neutrons for science. ENSA teamed up with the largest interdisciplinary laboratory in Russia, the National Research Centre ”Kurchatov Institute”, to organise the conference in St. Petersburg.

The atmosphere was festive as ENSA celebrated its 25th anniversary. Since its establishment in 1984, the association has grown significantly and now brings together 7000 scientists from 21 different countries. Its members are active and accomplished. According to ENSA, the vibrant user community in Europe produces half of neutron scattering publications world-wide. The year of 2019 has been special for ENSA not only because of the anniversary but also because the association got involved in an EU-funded project for the first time. ENSA has an active role in BrightnESS², which aims to support the long-term sustainability of neutron sources and the user community in Europe.

We at ENSA very much look forward to working together with LENS to ensure that Europe keeps its place at the forefront of neutron science.

Christiane Alba-Simionesco, ENSA Chair

“Scientists need access to beam time to conduct research, and facilities need users to produce science. In other words, we need each other. We at ENSA very much look forward to working together with LENS to ensure that Europe keeps its place at the forefront of neutron science,” said ENSA Chair Christiane Alba-Simionesco.

To exchange knowledge and best practices, ENSA actively reaches out to other communities around the world. This year, ECNS hosted neutron scattering users from four different regions for the first time, namely Europe, Asia-Oceania, Africa, and America. Altogether, participants from 33 countries came to St. Petersburg.

Advances in neutron science and instrumentation
The international character of ECNS makes it a great platform to celebrate extraordinary achievements. The prestigious ENSA’s Walter Hälg Prize of 2019 (sponsored by SwissNeutronics) was awarded to Kell Mortensen from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Kell is a renowned expert in the application of small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) to soft matter systems and has made significant contributions to our understanding of the thermodynamics and dynamics of soft materials. Kell also serves on the Scientific Advisory Committee of LENS member ESS.

Markus Appel from ILL is delivering a talk on backscattering spectroscopy after receiving the inaugural ENSA Neutron Instrumentation and Innovation Award of 2019.

In addition, this year ENSA gave out the inaugural Neutron Instrumentation and Innovation Award (sponsored by Mirrotron), which recognises ground-breaking contributions in neutron instrumentation and innovative method development. The prize is aimed at early career scientists and engineers and was presented to Markus Appel from LENS member Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) for his contribution to high-resolution backscattering spectroscopy.

Not only these awards but also the amount of posters and talks delivered at ECNS by staff from LENS member organisations demonstrates that the consortium has a strong base, and that scientists working at the member facilities are well regarded within the European user community. Their contributions were selected in a competitive process from more than 600 submitted abstracts. Proceedings from the conference will be available on the ECNS website later on.