Argonne National Laboratory

Los Alamos-Argonne partnership will aid understanding of complex materials

May 27, 2010

LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico—An intimate understanding of complex materials that lie at the heart of pharmaceuticals or even nuclear weapons can occur more quickly and efficiently thanks to an agreement between Los Alamos and Argonne national laboratories.

Thomas Proffen of the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center’s Manuel Lujan Jr. Neutron Scattering Center and Peter Chupas and Karena Chapman of Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) have developed an agreement that allows researchers to readily use complementary facilities at both locations. The agreement has created a protocol under which researchers can collect data on the Neutron Powder Diffractometer (NPDF) at the Lujan Center as well as the high-energy X-ray beamline 11-ID-B at Argonne’s APS facility and then use specially developed user-friendly software to combine the high-quality X-ray and neutron scattering data.

Together, the two experiments provide “total scattering” data with different scattering weights for each atom type.  This allows materials scientists to peer even deeper into the structure and behavior of materials at the atomic level.

Prior to the agreement between the two institutions, scientists needed to present separate proposals for use of each facility; this sometimes meant that researchers collected data from different samples or gathered information at a second facility years after using the first. Now that the agreement is in place, researchers can get combined access to each machine more quickly and easily.

Perhaps even more significant, the agreement increases collaboration between the staff members at each facility, which may lead to improvements in the modeling software and in the techniques used to capture data.

“Complex materials are all around us,” said Proffen. “We find them in cell phones, hard drives, pharmaceuticals, and materials of interest to the weapons community. Total scattering is becoming a powerful new characterization tool that can advance our understanding of these complex materials. This initiative may help us someday develop models that allow us to predict the behavior of materials in extreme or specialized environments, or to design materials with desirable properties such as superconductivity at room temperature or designer medicines.”

More information about total scattering is available at

About Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of five national synchrotron radiation light sources supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences (DOE-BES). The APS is the source of the Western Hemisphere's brightest high-energy x-ray beams for research in virtually every scientific discipline. More than 3,500 scientists representing universities, industry, and academic institutions from every U.S. state and several foreign nations visit the APS each year to carry out applied and basic research in support of the BES mission to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. To learn more about the Office of Basic Energy Sciences and its x-ray user facilities, visit

About Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.