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Neutron Diffraction

  1. Muhammed Yousufuddin1,2,
  2. Robert Bau3

Published Online: 15 DEC 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9781119951438.eibc0293

Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry

How to Cite

Yousufuddin, M. and Bau, R. 2011. Neutron Diffraction. Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

  2. 2

    NIST Center for Neutron Research, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, USA

  3. 3

    University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2011


The following article reviews the technique of neutron diffraction and its effectiveness in probing materials of chemical interest. The main advantage of neutrons is their ability to detect hydrogen atoms. We describe in this article several examples where neutrons offered additional information that was otherwise unavailable from X-rays. We have summarized a number of structures studied using neutron diffraction. Most of these structures showed the precise location of chemically interesting hydrogen atoms. We have also summarized structures where neutron diffraction allowed for the assignment of absolute stereochemistry in deuterated systems. Lastly, we have discussed the usefulness of neutron diffraction in protein crystallography.

One of the major disadvantages of neutron diffraction is the immensely low number of neutron sources available as compared to X-ray sources. We have detailed the neutron sources around the world capable of neutron diffraction experiments, including sources that are currently under construction such as the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, TN and J-PARC in Tokyo, Japan. In addition, a number of neutron diffraction instruments and their sample requirements are illustrated.

In the past, neutron diffraction has been overlooked by most practicing chemists as an efficient analytical tool. However, with the newer more powerful facilities and instrumentation in development, chemical systems studied with neutrons should become more common.


  • neutron scattering;
  • protein crystallography;
  • agostic interaction;
  • metal hydrides;
  • hydrogen/deuterium exchange;
  • metal cluster;
  • stretched dihydrogen;
  • spallation neutron source;
  • instrumentation;
  • diffraction