06 Jul 2016   |   Network News

KTH: New national graduate school will be hub for neutron scattering research

KTH is one of six partner universities in a new national graduate school for neutron scattering science, which is a key part of Sweden's emergence as an international hub for this versatile area of research. The director of studies for the new school explains what it means for KTH.

Sweden is taking a distinct role internationally in the science of neutron scattering, with recently-announced founding of a graduate school connected with the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, one of the largest science and technology infrastructure projects being built today. Funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF), the graduate school is a strategic partnership between six Swedish universities, including KTH. Martin Månsson, an experimental physicist at KTH, will be director of studies.

"Neutron scattering is one of the most versatile experimental techniques available, which is also reflected in the broad range of science that is planned within the graduate school," Månsson says.

The SSF graduate school in neutron scattering is connected with ESS facility now being built. What is unique about this facility?

"The European Spallation Source (ESS) will from 2023 be the absolute state-of-the-art facility to perform neutron scattering. To me what is special with ESS is that this is not only 'bigger and better' source, it is truly a novel technical development starting from the neutron source itself with the neutron target and moderator design, all the way to the use of novel detector technologies in the neutron instruments where the actual science is conducted. As a result, we will have access to both stronger and more focused neutron beams. Even compared to similar sources currently available only in USA (SNS) and Japan (J-PARC), ESS will without a doubt be the most intense and versatile neutron facility in the world. With such a facility we will be able to perform previously inaccessible studies, such as time-resolved investigations of dynamical processes, in operando studies of batteries and fuel cells, quantum materials under very extreme pressures/temperatures/magnetic fields, or possibly even reveal the hydrogen structure in proteins from our own genome. It is a huge privilege for Swedish scientists to have domestic access to such a facility in the near future, and we are now preparing to take full advantage of this unique opportunity nationally. To add the icing on this already fabulous cake, Sweden has recently also inaugurated the world’s most advanced x-ray source, the Max IV synchrotron in Lund, located only a few hundred meter from where ESS is currently being built. X-ray and neutron techniques are highly complementary and with the ESS and Max IV facilities, Swedish academia and industry will have access to all the tools we need to advance Swedish science and technology of tomorrow."

What research and training opportunities will this partnership offer for KTH students?

"The core team behind this graduate school consists of six of the largest Swedish universities, including KTH, Uppsala University (UU), Stockholm University (SU), Linköping University (LiU), Chalmers and Lund University (LU). The reason for this constellation is that clearly a majority of the Swedish expertise within neutron scattering is found within these institutions. With that said, it needs to be clear that this is a national graduate school, which is an investment for the whole of Sweden — academia as well as industry. Consequently, we highly encourage collaborations with Swedish institutions and companies outside the core team. Further, to strengthen the Swedish neutron community we have to form a strong international network and ample collaborations. In this way the graduate school will act as an ideal platform for both international PhD students to join for example, KTH, but also for KTH students to connect to international top-level institutions and companies."

What will your role be?

"Initially I will primarily lead the development of the student curriculum. This includes planning and developing a complete set of new courses as well as recruiting teachers both nationally as well as internationally. Here I will rely on my experience from working seven years in and around the Swiss Spallation Neutron Source at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), along with my broad international network within both academia and industry. In addition, I will be supported by six local study directors, who are located at each participating university. Once the school is actively up and running from 2017, I am also part of the school’s management group, which is responsible for everything from recruitment and quality assertions to annual meetings and reports. Finally, I will also participate in some of the PhD projects as a collaborator or, when needed, as an additional co-supervisor in order to provide expertise and support within the field of neutron scattering."

What kind of research will participants in this program be involved in?

"The PhD student projects ranges from life science to engineering, as well as fundamental physics and chemistry, along with functional materials. The latter is a rather wide research topic that includes energy compounds, electronic technologies and biomaterials. As I said, the unique powers of ESS allow us to access scientific domains that previously were impossible to study with the older and weaker neutron sources. The wide range of science within the school, as well as several interdisciplinary projects, is for me one of the very interesting aspects of this development. We will strongly encourage the PhD students to form their own network within the school where aspiring young scientists from many different fields can unite under the umbrella of neutron scattering. The aim is that such networks and connections will survive and prosper beyond the lifetime of the school and permeate into future academia and industry with a new generation of Swedish neutron experts."