Single-Course English 5 ECTS

The structure and dynamics of materials studied with X-rays and neutrons

Overall Course Objectives

Detailed understanding of the atomic scale structure and dynamics of materials is a crucial prerequisite for understanding their physical properties, and therefore also for the design of new materials of technological interest. Examples include components of new drugs to combat diseases, superconductors and materials for solar energy harvesting and data storage. Neutron and X-ray scattering are complementary methods that allow investigations of structure and dynamics.

The course introduces a series of experimental techniques in neutron and X-ray scattering that allow the determination of all relevant structural parameters for molecules, amorphous systems and crystals, including the magnetic structure. Furthermore, elementary excitations of the relevant structural, electronic and magnetic degrees of freedom (such as changing molecular bonds, phonons and spin waves) can be studied in great detail, either directly in the ultrafast time domain or via their spectroscopic signatures. X-ray and neutron imaging creates 3 dimensional maps of the local structure within materials. Hence, these techniques provide the means to uncover the fundamental mechanisms that govern the connections between structure and function for a wide range of materials and over a wide range of time and length-scales.

The overall goal of the course is to provide a broad understanding of modern X-ray and neutron scattering, and a thorough introduction to the practical use of these techniques in the study of the structure and dynamics of materials. The importance of neutron and x-ray scattering is underscored by the very large investments made by the Danish state in the construction of the European Spallation Source (ESS) and MAX-IV in Lund, Sweden, and in the European XFEL in Hamburg, Germany. The Technical University of Denmark is strongly involved in method development, design and construction of instruments, as well as scientific use of all three facilities.

Learning Objectives

  • Describe methods for production of X-ray and neutron beams.
  • Discuss how nuclei and electrons interact with neutrons and X-ray photons.
  • Illustrate the principles behind structure determination with X-rays and neutrons using concrete examples.
  • Investigate how X-rays and neutrons allow determination of structural and magnetic dynamics.
  • Calculate scattering and absorption cross-sections as well as dynamic structure factors quantitatively.
  • Identify the principles behind basic experimental techniques for studies of structure and dynamics.
  • Sketch how key optical components (guides, choppers, monochromators, mirrors, lenses, detectors, absorbers and beam-diagnostic tools) are applied in neutron and x-ray instruments, and how their function may be analyzed.
  • Argue for the complementarity between X-ray and neutron scattering.
  • Explain how the study of physical processes on certain characteristic time and length scales dictates the choice of certain instrument-types at either neutron or X-ray facilities.
  • Formulate an application for beam-time based on knowledge of existing and future neutron and X-ray facilities and instruments.

Course Content

The course introduces the student to the connection between the structure and dynamics of materials and the associated scattering phenomena, which can be observed at international neutron and X-ray facilities, such as ILL and ESRF in Grenoble, France, ESS and MAX-IV in Lund, as well as European XFEL in Hamburg. The student is introduced to key concepts such as cross-sections, scattering factors, absorption, diffraction, small angle scattering, spectroscopy and fluorescence. After the successful completion of the course, the student will have acquired suitable prerequisite skills in the area of neutron and X-ray research to be able to participate in academic or industrial research collaborations.

Recommended prerequisites

10036/10041/10102/10104/10303, or equivalent courses. In particular it is important to have basic knowledge of x-rays as electromagnetic waves, crystal structures and the reciprocal lattice.

Teaching Method

Lectures, problem sessions.


See course in the course database.





13 weeks




DTU Lyngby Campus

Course code 10200
Course type Candidate
Semester start Week 35
Semester end Week 48
Days Thurs 13-17

7.500,00 DKK