Because of their wave nature, thermal and cold neutrons can be reflected from smooth surfaces at grazing incidence angles, be reflected by multilayer coatings or be refracted at boundaries of different materials. The optical properties of materials are characterized by their refractive indices which are slightly less than unity for most elements and their isotopes in the case of cold and thermal neutrons as well as for x-rays. The motivation for the optics use for neutrons as well as for x-rays is to increase the signal rate and, by virtue of the optic's angular resolution, to improve the signal-to-noise level by reducing the background so the efficiency of the existing neutron sources use can be significantly enhanced. Both refractive and reflective optical techniques developed for x-ray applications can be applied to focus neutron beams. Typically neutron sources have lower brilliance compared to conventional x-ray sources so in order to increase the beam throughput the neutron optics has to be capable of capturing large solid angles. Because of this, the replicated optics techniques developed for x-ray astronomy applications would be a perfect match for neutron applications, so the electroformed nickel optics under development at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) can be applied to focus neutron beams. In this technique, nickel mirror shells are electroformed onto a figured and superpolished nickel-plated aluminum cylindrical mandrel from which they are later released by differential thermal contraction. Cylindrical mirrors with different diameters, but the same focal length, can be nested together to increase the system throughput. The throughput can be increased further with the use of the multilayer coatings deposited on the reflectivr surface of the mirror shells. While the electroformed nickel replication technique needs to be adopted for neutron focusing, the technology to coat the inside of cylindrical mirrors with neutron multilayers has to be developed. The availability of these technologies would bring new capabilities to neutron instrumentation and, hence, lead to new scientific breakthroughs. We have established a program to adopt the electroformed nickel replication optics technique for neutron applications and to develop the neutron multilayer replication technology.
Neutron Scattering Principal Investigators'' Meeting; 22-25 Jul. 2012; Gaithersburg, MD; United States