NFYK13021U Neutron Scattering

Volume 2015/2016

MSc Programme in Nanoscience

MSc Programme in Physics


Neutron scattering is one of the most important experimental methods for the study of the atomic-scale structure and dynamics of condensed matter. Neutron scattering complements the well-known technique of X-ray diffraction by being well suited for the study of light elements (hydrogen in particular), magnetic structures, and collective excitations like lattice vibrations and spin waves. This course will present an introduction to neutron scattering and its applications, strengths, and weaknesses, and describe simulation of neutron scattering instruments.

The course topics are

  • Scattering from atoms, crystals, and nanostructures.
  • Magnetic scattering.
  • Elastic and inelastic scattering
  • Scattering from lattice vibrations, spin waves, surface layers, macromolecules, and soft condensed matter.
  • Design of neutron instruments for different types of science
  • Hands-on neutron scattering experiments
Learning Outcome

After the course, the optimal student will be able to:

  • Apply the theory for some main types of scattering: diffraction, small-angle, spectroscopy
  • Use standard programs for analysis of neutron/X-ray data (e.g. iFIT, Fullprof)
  • Solve simple neutron-optical problems
  • Use the ray-tracing package McStas to build virtual instruments and perform virtual experiments
  • Plan and perform standard neutron experiments as a part of a group, including beam time planning and optimization, and maintaining a logbook
  • Report on novel scientific work on a level that could form the basis of a publication
  • Judge whether neutron scattering is an appropriate method for a given project

After the course, the optimal student will be able to:

  • Understand the principles in neutron scattering and the strengths and weaknesses of the method
    Characterize main types of scattering: elastic/inelastic, coherent/incoherent, nuclear/magnetic
  • Explain the principles for neutron instrument design for all types of experiments listed above
  • Know the theory behind ray-tracing and Monte-Carlo simulations
  • Have knowledge on radiation security (PSI security coarse will be passed as a part of this course)

This course will equip the students with the necessary skills for understanding and neutron scattering, a technique that has application for and can be utilized in fields outside physics.
The course will give the students thorough training in performing and analyzing Monte-Carlo simulations. 
The students will learn how to perform and report on experiments in a large-scale facility environment, and to perform teamwork on such a facility to obtain the best possible results under strict time constraints.

Undergraduate courses in electromagnetism and quantum mechanics.
Knowledge of crystallography is preferred.
Basic knowledge of the principles of programming is required.
Lectures, tutorials, group work, hands-on experiments.
Restricted elective for the specialisations "Quantum Physics" "Physics" and "Bio- and Medical Physics"
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Excursions
  • 60
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Practical exercises
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 62
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
An oral exam in the central topic of the course
Exam registration requirements

2 reports based on computer experiments and theory and 1 report based on experiments in Switzerland.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners

An oral exam in the central topic of the course. If the reports have not been approved, please contact the course responsible to arrange new reports including possibly a new experiment. The reports have to be subitted two weeks before the re-examination.

Criteria for exam assesment

See Skills