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China starts building phase II of spallation neutron source to help boost sci-tech innovation


An aerial view of the China Spallation Neutron Source. /China Media Group
An aerial view of the China Spallation Neutron Source. /China Media Group

An aerial view of the China Spallation Neutron Source. /China Media Group

China began to upgrade its spallation neutron source, a large scientific facility dubbed a "super microscope" that probes the structure of the microscopic world, to help boost scientific and technological innovation.

Construction of phase II of the China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS), the nation's first research facility providing the most intense pulsed neutron beams for scientific research, was launched on Saturday in Dongguan City, south China's Guangdong Province.

The CSNS phase II project includes building 11 new neutron instruments, experimental terminals and laboratories. And the proton beam power of the source, one of the key performance indicators of the facility, is expected to increase from 100 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts, said Wang Sheng, deputy director of the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and general director of the project.

The construction of the CSNS phase II is expected to take five years and nine months, according to Wang.

"After the completion of phase II, the source can generate more neutrons at the same time, which means the time of the experiments could be shortened, and the resolution of the experiments could be improved, enabling the measurement of smaller samples and the study on faster dynamic processes," Wang said.

The application scope and capabilities of the CSNS will be greatly improved after the completion of phase II, and the number of experiments will also increase significantly to assist in cutting-edge scientific research and economic development, Wang added.

Phase I has completed Over 1,500 experiments

Construction of CSNS phase I started in September 2011, with a total investment of 2.3 billion yuan ($323 million).

It was put into use in August 2018, becoming the first pulse spallation neutron source in China and the fourth in the world after those in the UK, the U.S. and Japan, filling the void in the application of pulsed neutron in China.

Focusing on basic and applied research, the CSNS has been used to conduct major original, innovative research in multiple fields in the past five years, including magnetic materials, nano-functional materials, and polymers, and has yielded several important scientific achievements.

According to Zhang Junrong, deputy director of the neutron science department at the IHEP's Dongguan research branch, the number of registered CSNS users has exceeded 6,000 since 2018, and more than 1,500 experimental projects have been completed. The projects cover a wide range of fields. The most prominent ones are in energy materials, including lithium-ion batteries, shale materials, hydrogen storage materials and combustible ice.

"The experiments we have carried out in energy materials account for about 30 percent of the total," said Zhang.

Last year, the CSNS operated for more than 5,000 hours.

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is becoming one of the regions with the most concentrated major scientific and technological infrastructures in China. As the first major national science and technology infrastructure in the area, the CSNS provides strong support for the construction of a comprehensive national science center and an international innovation center there.

(With input from Xinhua)

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