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Trustees Approve Renaming of the Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences

April 1, 2016

Ernest Wollan (left) and Clifford Shull (right) work with a double-crystal neutron spectrometer at the ORNL X-10 Graphite Reactor in 1949. Image Credit: ORNL

The Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences is now the Shull Wollan Center—A Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences, named in honor of two esteemed physicists and pioneers in neutron scattering, Clifford Shull and Ernest Wollan.

Trustees unanimously approved the proposal at the full board meeting held today at UT Martin.

Shull and Wollan studied neutron scattering at ORNL in the 1940s while working on the X-10 Graphite Reactor. The work they accomplished together established neutron diffraction as a quantitative research tool.

Neutron science continues to be a vital tool in a host of studies—in physics, energy science, materials science, and biological sciences—where it is used to determine the magnetic or atomic structure of a material. This is the basis of the scholarship performed daily at the Shull Wollan Center.

“By providing access to ORNL and UT’s world-leading capabilities, the Shull Wollan Center for Neutron Sciences allows scientists from diverse backgrounds and fields of research to use neutrons to address compelling scientific questions,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said.

For example, researchers are using neutrons to understand quantum materials that may enable the next generation of supercomputers; the structure of polymers, which are ubiquitous in manufacturing and energy systems; and the design and performance of engineering materials used in every aspect of transportation, from engines, fuel, and batteries to roads and infrastructure.

Located adjacent to the Spallation Neutron Source on the ORNL campus, the center serves as an intellectual hub for the neutron science community and provides researchers with access to the world’s most powerful neutron scattering facilities. Through the center, UT faculty have joint appointments with the university and ORNL as part of one of the world’s leading centers of materials research.

“Naming our neutron science facility after Clifford Shull and Ernest Wollan seems only appropriate, because their collaboration around the development of neutron diffraction, recognized by the Nobel committee, is emblematic of the discovery enterprise we will further nurture,” said Taylor Eighmy, UT vice chancellor for research and engagement.

Shull was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics for the neutron diffraction technique he and Wollan had developed nearly five decades earlier at ORNL.

The center will hold an official renaming ceremony this summer with members of both the Wollan and Shull families in attendance.