Tour at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR)

Completed in 1965 and operating at 85 megawatts, HFIR’s steady-state neutron beam is the strongest reactor-based neutron source in the United States. The thermal and cold neutrons produced by HFIR are used to study physics, chemistry, materials science, engineering, and biology. The intense neutron flux, constant power density, and constant-length fuel cycles are used by more than 500 researchers each year for neutron scattering research into the fundamental properties of condensed matter.

The neutron scattering research facilities at HFIR contain a world-class collection of instruments used for fundamental and applied research on the structure and dynamics of matter. HFIR is also used for medical, industrial, and research isotope production; research on severe neutron damage to materials; and neutron activation analysis to examine trace elements in the environment. Additionally, the building houses a gamma irradiation facility that uses spent fuel assemblies and can provide high gamma doses for studies of the effects of radiation on materials.

Recent discoveries made possible by neutrons at HFIR are helping to unravel the secrets of materials and energy. This new knowledge also leads to improvements in every day products like solar cells, hard drives, drugs, and bio-fuels. In addition, HFIRs capabilities help solve crimes and isotopes produced at HFIR are fueling the discovery of new elements and space flight.

Neutrons have led to the discovery and improvement of many new materials and technologies:

Solar Cells

Hard Drives


Spacecraft Power Sources

New Elements and Materials

And More

Source: High Flux Isotope Reactor | Neutron Science at ORNL

Spallation Neutron Source (SNS)

SNS produces neutrons with an accelerator-based system that delivers short (microsecond) proton pulses to a steel target filled with liquid mercury through a process called spallation. Those neutrons are then directed toward state-of-the-art instruments that provide a variety of capabilities to researchers across a broad range of disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, biology, and materials science.

SNS is available to researchers around the world with varying degrees of experience. Submitted research proposals are reviewed by independent scientists from within the neutron scattering community to ensure the most promising ones are chosen.

With its more intense, brighter source of neutrons and world-class instrument suite, SNS provides the neutron scattering community with unprecedented research opportunities. The facility allows for measurements of greater sensitivity, higher speed, higher resolution, and in more complex sample environments than have been possible at existing neutron facilities.

These details help lead to advances that can lower the cost, improve the efficiency, and improve the safety of products we use every day like:

Cell Phones



Bridge Cables


Source: Spallation Neutron Source | Neutron Science at ORNL