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Small-Angle Neutron Scattering

Neutron Techniques

  1. Volker S. Urban

Published Online: 12 OCT 2012

DOI: 10.1002/0471266965.com113

Characterization of Materials

Characterization of Materials

How to Cite

Urban, V. S. 2012. Small-Angle Neutron Scattering. Characterization of Materials. 1–16.

Author Information

  1. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Biology and Soft Matter Division, Oak Ridge, TN, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 12 OCT 2012


Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) probes structural details at the nanometer scale in a nondestructive way. This chapter gives an introduction to scientists who have no prior small-angle scattering knowledge but seek a technique that allows elucidating structural information in challenging situations that thwart approaches by other methods. SANS is applicable to a wide variety of materials including metals and alloys, ceramics, concrete, glasses, polymers, composites, and biological materials. Isotope and magnetic interactions provide unique methods for labeling and contrast variation to highlight specific structural features of interest. In situ studies of a material's responses to temperature, pressure, shear, magnetic and electric fields, etc., are feasible as a result of the high penetrating power of neutrons. SANS provides statistical information on significant structural features averaged over the probed sample volume, and one can use SANS to quantify with high precision the structural details that are observed, for example, in electron microscopy. Neutron scattering is nondestructive; there is no need to cut specimens into thin sections, and neutrons penetrate deeply, providing information on the bulk material, free from surface effects. The basic principles of a SANS experiment are fairly simple, but the measurement, analysis, and interpretation of small-angle scattering data involve theoretical concepts that are unique to the technique and that are not widely known. This chapter includes a concise description of the basics, as well as practical know-how that is essential for a successful SANS experiment.


  • structure;
  • morphology;
  • phase transition;
  • nanomaterials;
  • polymers;
  • biomaterials;
  • magnetic;
  • composites