Properties of neutrons

Neutrons are used as an analytical tool across science and technology disciplines, where their unique properties help scientists to understand the world around us at the atomic- and molecular-level.

Study structure

Neutron wavelengths are comparable to the spacings of atoms and molecules.

Study dynamics

Neutron energies are comparable to the time scales of molecular diffusion, vibrations and rotations.

Study magnetism

The neutron's magnetic moment can be used to study the microscopic magnetic properties of materials.

Penetration power

Neutrons can penetrate deep into matter (including many different metals) enabling the study of large samples - even within complex sample environments.


Neutrons are suitable for the characterisation of delicate and precious samples - including biological materials.

Versatile sample environments

Sophisticated sample environments enable studies under operating conditions, including extreme temperatures and pressures.

Sensitivity to light elements

The neutron scattering power of nuclei varies in a quasi-random manner such that lighter atoms (e.g. H, Li) can be studied in the presence of heavier atoms.

Isotopic contrast

Neutrons are sensitive to different isotopes of the same element, so isotopic substitution (e.g. H/D) can be used to highlight specific features.


Neutron scattering is highly complementary to other techniques, such as X-ray scattering, electron microscopy, magnetic resonance and computational methods.