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UD scientists to lead improvements to nation's view of nanoparticles

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Delaware Public Media
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Scientists at the University of Delaware have a key role in developing an instrument for the federal government that can see the movement of nanoparticles. 

The National Science Foundation is spending nearly $12 million dollars to make improvements to the nation’s best neutron spin echo spectrometer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Officials say the upgrades will allow scientists to measure the movement of neutrons within an atom, and observe how the neutrons react to different materials.

UD’s Norman Wagner is the Unidel Robert L. Pigford Chair in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and director of the Center for Neutron Science. His research team is taking the lead on the project. He says observing motion on the nanoscale, not just structure, could be a game changer.

“Envision, maybe, water moving through a membrane and it’s water purification. You want the water to go through, but you don’t want the salt and the other things in the water that you don’t want in your drinking water to go through the membrane, right. So that requires an understanding of motion,” said Wagner.

Wagner says the technology could spur advancements in countless fields from aircraft instrumentation, to batteries, to biopharmaceutical medicines.

“This instrument will give us the ability to look in places we’ve never been able to see before so undoubtedly there’s things there to find, right, to discover,” he said.  

Wagner says many UD staff and students already work out of the national lab, and this project will add even more at the site over the next five years.

He says the improvements to the neutron echo spectrometer will make the instrument world class, and it will be available for research in industry and academia from around the world.