03 FEB 2021

Neutrons can be produced via fission, spallation or nuclear processes. In recent years, small compact accelerator-based neutron sources (CANS), which produce neutrons through lower energy nuclear reactions, have gained attention as scalable and cost-efficient neutron sources with the potential to serve as user facilities. Exploring the possibilities of using CANS in Europe, an ad-hoc Working Group of LENS has produced a Report on Low Energy Accelerator-driven Neutron Sources. The report gives an overview of the scope and capabilities of this evolving technology, and offers an outlook and recommendations for CANS to supplement the existing ecosystem of neutron sources in Europe.

Sketch of target / moderator / reflector unit for CANS
Sketch of target / moderator / reflector unit for CANS. Courtesy of J. Baggemann, FZJ.

Low energy accelerator-driven neutron sources have existed for decades but have had relatively limited performance and small numbers of users. However, progress in instrumentation means that there is now scope to construct neutron sources using low energy accelerators with performances on par with medium-power nuclear reactors or spallation sources.

A recent report by an Ad-hoc Working Group of LENS explores how these Compact Accelerator-driven Neutron Sources, or CANS, could contribute to a more widespread use of neutron scattering techniques in Europe. The LENS Report on Low Energy Accelerator-driven Neutron Sources offers a detailed overview of CANS, explaining how technology developments (including accelerators, targets and moderators) are offering scope to construct and operate smaller-scale neutron scattering facilities with enhanced performance and considerable flexibility in terms of cost, capacity and capability.

Whilst CANS are unlikely to beat higher end facilities in raw neutron flux at the sample position, they have the potential to contribute to a powerful ecosystem of small, medium and large, national and international facilities in Europe. The next stage is to demonstrate the technical feasibility and predicted performance of low energy accelerator-driven neutron sources through the construction of prototype facilities. Based on the results, and given the flexibility of these sources, individual countries or partnerships could then consider the business case for the construction and operation of such national sources depending on their particular academic or industrial research requirements.

Thomas Gutberlet, FZJ, t.gutberlet@fz-juelich.de
Frederic Ott, CEA, frederic.ott@cea.fr

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