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ESS Competence Centre

In 2019, the European Spallation Source (ESS), a joint project of 17 European countries, will start operations, initially with 7 instruments. It will generate the world’s most intensive neutron pulses and permit unique insights to be gained into matter for basic research and application-oriented research. The construction start is scheduled for 2013, and plans call for the number of instruments to be increased to 22 by 2025. The ESS Competence Centre founded in 2011 at Forschungszentrum Jülich coordinates the contributions for planning and constructing the ESS, which are developed by the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science (JCNS), the Central Institute for Technology (ZAT), and the Central Institute for Electronics (ZEL).

Within the Competence Centre, scientists, engineers, and technicians are developing concepts for central components of ESS until 2013, for the target, where the neutrons are released, as well as for scientific instruments and detectors. The basis for the work at Jülich is the years of experience in the construction, operation, and use of neutron scattering instruments, which started in Jülich back in 1962.

ESSThe ESS facility

The ESS facility’s high output is particularly demanding for the target and provides the experts at Jülich’s Central Institute for Technology with the framework for designing the target station. In a spallation facility, the target station serves as the target for proton salvoes that release neutron pulses upon impact. Due to the powerful output of ESS, a great deal of thermal energy is generated during this process that must be removed on an ongoing basis. The concept of Jülich’s Central Institute for Technology also includes a rotating target disc made of tungsten rather than a stationary metal block. For the sophisticated design, Jülich’s developers are able to draw on Jülich’s own experience from past design studies, along with experience from other high-performance spallation sources in Japan and the USA. In addition, they use simulation calculations and tests on prototypes.

ESS will generate more intensive and longer pulses than the spallation sources in Japan and the USA. Their frequency of 14 hertz is lower than those at sources such as the one in the USA (60 hertz). As a result of the high intensity of the pulses, many more neutrons can be utilized for science at the instruments than at conventional sources. While this opens up new possibilities for researchers, the instruments must be adapted to the special conditions at ESS. The Jülich institutes JCNS, ZAT, and ZEL design, develop, and construct scientific instruments that are precisely tailored to the new source.

For example, the Jülich researchers are working on a time-of-flight spectrometer, which can use the pulse structure of ESS especially well. This instrument will allow new insights to be gained about the structure and dynamics of complex materials, and, for example, on magnetic excitations in high-temperature superconductors.

In order for the neutron pulses of ESS to be optimally used in highly developed instruments, innovative detectors are needed. They elicit information from the neutrons about structure, movement, and, in some cases, magnetic properties of the material samples studied. In addition, surfaces many square metres in size must precisely measure the site and point in time of the neutron impact. This is a great challenge, especially because tried and tested designs work with the gas helium-3, which is rare and costly. Working with the gas is becoming increasingly more expensive, which is why new detector concepts are called for. To this end, experts at Jülich’s Central Institute for Electronics are working on new scintillation detectors and their data acquisition electronics. In addition, they are addressing concepts for control electronics.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided funding to the amount of € 6 million for Jülich contributions for the design-update phase. Another € 9 million goes to other German research institutions. This means that Germany has a pioneering role among the European partner countries. Since 2009, Prof. Sebastian Schmidt, member of Jülich’s Board of Directors, has coordinated the German contributions. Since 2011, the ESS Competence Centre has served as the point of contact.


Dr. Andreas Wischnewski
Head of the ESS Competence Centre
Tel: +49 2461 61-4749
Fax: +49 2461 61-2610

More information

Neutron Research
How Spallation Works
European Spallation Source (ESS)
History of Neutron Research in Jülich
Central Institute for Engineering, Electronics and Analytics (ZEA)
Division for ESS Instrumentation (JCNS / ICS)