A Brief History of JCNS

or How Distributed Neutron Scattering Came About

15 July 1958

Detailed planning takes place to establish the Institute for Reactor Materials and the Institute for Neutron Physics.

28 Sep. 1961

Inauguration of the Nuclear Research Centre Jülich (Kernforschungsanlage Jülich, KFA).

9 Oct. 1961

Establishment of the work group for Neutron Physics.

14 Nov. 1962

The reactor FRJ-2 (DIDO) at the Research Centre Jülich goes critical for the first time.


Jülich is involved as a possible location for a European very high flux reactor; the reactor was established, however, in Grenoble (->ILL).  A cooperation was then set up with Grenoble and within this framework,  a series of experiments and research projects are planned to take place in Jülich, and are still operated by Jülich scientists to the present day.

12 June 1964

Re-organization of the “Workgroup Institute for Reactor Materials” to “Institute for Reactor Materials”.  Re-organization of the “Workgroup Institute for Neutron Physics” to the “Institute for Neutron Physics”.

May 1966

After much discussion, the scope of solid state physics is broadened and the Institute for Neutron Physics is brought together with the relevant department of the Institute for Reactor Materials to form the Institute for Neutron and Solid State Physics. (Approved by the administrative board 23.11.1966).


An external building housing the neutron measuring instruments is constructed adjacent to the reactor building.  After moderation in a cold source, the neutrons are fed into the experimental hall using a neutron guide.  Instruments: small angle neutron scattering instrument, diffuse elastic diffractometer, backscattering spectrometer, cold three-axis spectrometer.  Some of the instruments were novel at the time, such as the small angle neutron scattering instrument and the backscattering spectrometer.

The “old“ building housing the measuring instruments. The detector pipe of the small angle neutron scattering instrument protrudes out of the building.
At the back on the right is the diffuse elastic diffractometer, behind which was the test area of the small angle neutron scatterer. Pictured are Mr Broch and Mr Pohl, the two technicians responsible for the diffractometer and the small angle neutron scatterer.

May 1970

In the effort to establish a central German solid state institute, after long and detailed discussions the Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart (Max Planck Institute) and Jülich (KFA) were founded.  The Institute for Neutron and Solid State Physics serves as the basis for a total of 10 part-institutes, three of which are for neutron scattering (Prof. T. Springer, Prof. H. Stiller and Prof. W. Schmatz).

The Institute for Solid State Physics Jülich (IFF) is born.  

KFA Scientific Report 1970:

KFA Jahresbericht 1970:

May 1981

Jülich produces a "Feasibility Study on Spallation Neutron Sources”.

21 Nov. 1986

The external neutron laboratory „ELLA“ next to the research reactor  DIDO is ready for use after the “old“ measurement hall was dismantled.  A new cold source was installed along with the complete renovation of the neutron guidance system with 58Ni. Two classic "pin-hole" small angle scattering  instruments were newly installed, a double crystal diffractometer for “ultra“ small angle scattering, a backscattering spectrometer (PI-2), a diffractometer for diffuse elastic diffraction, a spin-echo spectrometer, and later a further small angle scattering instrument with a focusing mirror for momentum transfers Q in areas from 1e-4 1/A.

FRJ-2 Research reactor (DIDO), next to it on the left is the neutron laboratory "ELLA".
View inside the neutron guidance hall with the Spin-Echo Spectrometer, the two small angle scattering diffractometers 1 and 2, with the third situated in-between.


Based on experience gained during the feasibility study on the SNQ, Forschungszentrum Jülich provides important contributions to the technical design of the European Spallation Source (ESS).  From 2000 onwards, the IFF is put in charge of the special interest group of the European community of users (as head of the Scientific Advisory Committee) and part of the body of ESS directors (Science Director of the ESS).


Jülich puts itself forward as one of the five possible sites for the establishment of the ESS.

June 2004

Forschungszentrum Jülich signs a Cooperation Agreement with the Technische Universität München, the operator of the new research neutron source Heinz Maier-Leibnitz FRM II.  Subsequently, Forschungszentrum Jülich equips an external station to be used by the Munich research reactor on the campus in Garching.  Seven measurement instruments for use in neutron research to the value of a total of 45 million Euro are transported to Garching and operated independently by Jülich scientists.                    

16 Feb. 2006

The Jülich Center for Neutron Science is established.
In JCNS, Jülich’s expertise in neutron research (Institute for Neutron Scattering and the Institute for Scattering Methods) is merged into one institute.  Prof. Dieter Richter, Director at the Institute for Solid State Research, describes the watershed in the following way: “We have 44 successful years working with the Jülich reactor behind us.  During this time, valuable research has been performed, but also application-oriented products,“ ….“Our future lies in working at external neutron sources, namely at the research reactor FRM II in Garching, at the spallation neutron source in Oak Ridge (Tennessee, USA) and at the high-flux reactor (ILL) in Grenoble (France)."

2 May 2006

DIDO is finally shut down after almost 44 years of operation..

Nov. 2008

A co-operation agreement is signed with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Through the construction and operation of the NSE at the SNS, we are allowed access to the instruments BASIS and POWGEN at ORNL (planned since 2002; inauguration 5 November 2009).

Sep. 2010

Expansion is planned:

In 2018 in southern Sweden, the most powerful neutron source in the world is due to go on line – the European Spallation Source ESS in Lund.  Forschungszentrum Jülich will play an active part in this and planning begins.

January 2011

Reorganization of the institutes IFF, ISB and IBN. JCNS is made into a separate, independent institute, comprising of the Institute for Neutron Scattering and the Institute of Scattering Methods.  At the same time, the Institute for Neutron Scattering becomes part of the newly established Institute of Complex Systems (ICS).

January 2011

JCNS intensifies the collaboration with the neutron source FRM II. Forschungszentrum Jülich and JCNS enter into the collaboration with the Technical University Munich, the Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht and the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin at the FRM II.  The cooperation funded by the BMBF and the Bavarian Ministry of Science will have a budget of around € 300 million from 2011 – 2020. In addition, the national centres within the Helmholtz Association agreed to invest approximately € 30.3 million per year in neutron research.


(In German)
Das Forschungszentrum. Eine Geschichte der KFA Jülich von ihrer Gründung bis 1980,
Bernd-A. Rusinek,Frankfurt/M., New York, 1996

An excerpt can be found at: File:   IFF-Kapitel_aus_der_Geschichte_der_Kernforschungsanlage.pdf (PDF, 110 kB)
Chronik File:   Chronik_Auszug_IFF.pdf (PDF, 132 kB)
along with press releases

Many thanks to Bernd-A.Rusinek; historian at the Central Library, who kindly made all the old source materials available.                                   

Additional pictures (contributed by Dietmar Schwahn)


Last Modified: 29.06.2023