A multi-compartment solid/liquid cell to increase throughput of neutron studies of Langmuir interfaces (SPLICS)

The launch of the ESS will revolutionise what it is possible to measure using a beam of neutrons. The higher flux is set to shorten the historically long measurement times of neutron experiments, drastically boosting the number of studies that can be performed within a typical beam-time slot. Without a tailored development of sample environments and sample preparation methods however, the ESS’ new capabilities run the risk to turn the current “not enough neutrons for my samples” issue, into the “not enough samples for my neutrons” problem.

Increasing the throughput of neutron experiments thus relies on increasing the number of samples available to be measured within an experiment. In the context of interfacial neutron studies that require assembly of complex interfaces, such as Langmuir-Blodgett and Langmuir-Schaefer films, the limiting factor will become the time and resources necessary to prepare the samples. This research project is aimed at developing a novel solid/liquid cell capable of splitting the surface of any type of solid supported film deposited on a single substrate into several samples that can be studied independently.

This new type of sample housing will be designed to fit and adapt to the characteristics of the ESS instruments FREIA, ESTIA, for measurements of neutron reflectometry and SKADI and LOKI for grazing incidence small angle scattering and diffraction. At the same time, the novel cell design will retain compatibility with currently available neutron instruments which will be critical for testing during the project and for delivering data for high impact publications. The innovative cell design is set to provide essential benefits to a broad range of research areas that rely on neutron studies of complex interfaces such as biological membrane science, antibiotic research and several topics in soft matter and polymer science. Specifically, within this project, two science cases will be addressed to validate the benefits of the novel sample environment.

The first will focus on the effect of membrane curvature in the dynamic processes involving lateral segregation of protein and lipids in biological membranes and the second one will address the ever-growing issue of antibiotic resistance.