Ling Cai, a former student of the National School on Neutron and X-Ray Scattering (NXS) and currently a research scientist at Corning Incorporated recently returned to Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) to make fundamental measurements relating thermal and vibrational properties of silica glass.

“I’ve been a neutron user since 2012 when I attended NXS,” said Cai. “The school gave me the foundation I needed to apply neutron scattering to my research, and I brought that expertise to my work at Corning.”  

Jointly conducted by Oak Ridge and Argonne National Laboratories, NXS immerses graduate students in national user facilities like SNS, the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) and the Advanced Photon Source (APS) to learn in a hands-on environment how to use neutrons and x-rays in their research. 2016 marks the NXS program’s eighteenth year of educating graduate students.

On the VISION instrument, SNS beam line 16B, Cai collected neutron vibrational spectra in silica glasses with positive and negative coefficients of thermal expansion to link the lattice dynamics of the glasses to their thermal expansion behavior. Understanding the fundamental thermal expansion behavior of this material will benefit the development of new products with better properties.  

“VISION helped solve fundamental problems,” said Cai. “I wanted to understand a basic theory of the thermal expansion of glass, which can have many applications in everyday products and in extreme environments.”

Cai is one of a growing list of neutron users to return to SNS and HFIR after attending NXS to conduct exploratory work ranging from fundamental to applied research.

SNS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the DOE's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

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