ZnO Tetrapod

New Materials = New Tools = New Networks = New Innovations

John Z. Larese
John Z. Larese

A very passionate talk on “Neutrons, Nanomaterials and Molecular Adsorption” was given this Thursday by Mr. John Z. Larese from University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The audience attending the ESS & Lund University seminar series on “New Science with Max IV and ESS” was introduced to the meaning and mysteries of “surface science”.

In a more profound framing of his presentation John started by touching upon some factors which attracts researchers and scientists to settle down, work and live at certain places. It became obvious that beautiful nature combined with dynamic city and campus environments, offering opportunities to do top class research with state-of-the-art technology, were central things. But for a large scale research facility (like the ESS) to become successful, it is important not only to be able to provide instruments with higher resolution and faster speed of data management – the area surrounding the facility must have laboratories and gear for synthesising, characterising and preparation of samples nearby. There must be labs on spot where the researcher can error detect their samples quickly in case something goes wrong with the sample. With valuable and expensive beam time running, it can be devastating to your project if one have to travel long distances in order to optimise research samples and assemble data. Considering these requirements, there is no doubt that the location of the European Spallation Source on the site just north of Lund, will make ESS an integrated part of the Øresund region [map] thus making it possible to benefit from an urban environment which is currently building up one of the worlds most excellent infrastructures for science and research.

ZnO Tetrapod
ZnO Tetrapod

On the more hardcore level of John’s presentation we became acquaintanced with MgO (Magnesium Oxide), ZnO (Zinc Oxide) and how to carry out basic science experiments producing nanoparticles by burning the substance and then analysing with neutron spectrometry.

Neutron scattering techniques like diffraction, inelastic neutron scattering and spectroscopy, are ideally suited to investigate the structure and dynamics of molecules at the interface of nanoscale materials. John has actually been doing experiments with our own ESS director Colin Carlile during the nineties at the ISIS neutron source using the IRIS spectrometer which Colin spent his life on building (before he spent his life building the ESS AB).

Through synthetic production and characterization of nanometer scale materials like Mgo and ZnO we can create tiny elements of materials which exhibit physical and chemical properties that are dramatically different from ordinary matter.

ZnO can form nanosized tetrapods which can be used for optoelectronics – Sensors combining both light and electricity for fine measurments in technological devices.

High power neutron tools with novel instrumentation will spawn a new generation of science that will dramatically impact the world’s energy and technological future. Investing in this technology and research is of high relevance to the energy challenges we see today. John tells us that it has already made us re-discover solar energy and fuel cells paving the way for a sustainable society.

By combining material synthesis, neutron scattering and modeling theory we can develop accurate potential energy surfaces and predict new routes for developing new materials; understand what factors are important in surface mediation of chemical reactions; synthesise novel materials to address fundamental questions in gas separation, sequestration and storage, catalysis, sensors, energy storage and energy conversion.

Innovation and technological improvements in society is of course the crucial outcome for public investments in big science facilities. In order for a researcher to make new discoveries and innovate, John Larese pointed out the importance of being at the right place at the right time and having the ability to be receptive to the world around you. He also displayed a map of a research program that the SNS and HFIR facilities in the USA runs together with ILL in France and ISIS in the UK.

I think of the ten years I’ve been working at universities myself: We now live in a digitalised knowledge society with a globalised competition for resources and competences between universities, laboratories and research facilities. Sometimes, barriers of fear and bad campaigning appears on the agenda of competing institutions, countries and organisations with seemingly different interests. But in order to develop science and society on an international level, we rather need to look at the things connecting us which can make us stronger together. John Larese talked about the importance of getting facilities and organisations to talk to each other and help professionals to network, collaborate and build international societies within their fields of interest. When institutions and people choose a more social strategy, creating win-win situations, it becomes easier to expand our universe of arts and science and provide new generations with a greater possibility to find the right place at the right time and become innovative. It is in the mix between different schools, cultures, minds and DNA, where new things evolve. Living in the international environment of Lund, being able to listen to speeches by prominent researchers and meet with interesting people from all around the world, is certainly a time and place which makes me creative!