neutron diffraction

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The scattering of neutrons by atoms in solids, liquids, or gases. This process has given rise to a technique, analogous to X-ray diffraction techniques, using a flux of thermal neutrons from a nuclear reactor to study solid-state phenomena. Thermal neutrons have average kinetic energies of about 0.025 eV (4×10 −21 J) giving them an equivalent wavelength of about 0.1 nanometre, which is suitable for the study of interatomic interference. There are two types of interaction in the scattering of neutrons by atoms: one is the interaction between the neutrons and the atomic nucleus, the other is the interaction between the magnetic moments of the neutrons and the spin and orbital magnetic moments of the atoms. The latter interaction has provided valuable information on antiferromagnetic and ferrimagnetic materials (see magnetism). Interaction with the atomic nucleus gives diffraction patterns that complement those from X-rays. X-rays, which interact with the extranuclear electrons, are not suitable for investigating light elements (e.g. hydrogen), whereas neutrons do give diffraction patterns from such atoms because they interact with nuclei.

Subjects: Chemistry.

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