Users Questions & Answers (Q&A)

I don’t know much about neutron science. Where can I learn the basics?

Visit our science page to learn about the basics of neutron scattering by reading our primer and webpages and by watching our videos. Also be sure to add your email address to our email list to receive information on workshops and schools on neutron scattering.

Why am I being contacted by different people at different offices?

ORNL’s Neutron Sciences Division is quite large, employing several hundred staff. Therefore, there is some division of the many responsibilities related to preparing users for a visit to the lab. You may hear from the User Office one day and from an instrument scientist the next day. Staff at the Visitor Center also may be in touch at different times. It is important to respond to ALL requests for information in a timely manner.

The User Office will assist you with issues related to your badge, training, and dates for your visit to ORNL. International users will have extra requirements to complete and may need to have a visa to enter the United States; the User Office will assist with these matters.

Scientific associates for each beam line will assist with scheduling, sample environment, sample preparation, and lab scheduling.

I received an email about my confirmed times but am now being told my proposal is not confirmed. Why?

You will receive an email with your scheduled beam time, and you need to reply to acknowledge that you received this schedule. Once you receive this email, you can begin planning your visit, making travel and lodging arrangements, etc.

However, this email is just one part of the confirmation process. You need to go into the IPTS system to confirm the details of your experiment for planning purposes. There are five screens in the proposal confirmation process, and all details must be confirmed and saved to complete the process.

How long does the registration process take once I am awarded beam time?

ORNL prefers to complete the badging process one month before the scheduled arrival date. The process may take longer for international visitors.

A rapid approval process is available in certain, limited situations. Contact the instrument scientist to discuss the possibility of a Rapid Access proposal.

What kind of training is required to be a user at the Spallation Neutron Source or the High Flux Isotope Reactor?

ORNL site access training, facility access training, and radiation worker training modules are required for all users. Users complete some of this training online before arrival at ORNL. Upon arrival, you will be scheduled for a hands-on Rad Worker training class, plus site specific beamline and laboratory training. Once complete, most training is valid for two years.

When should I arrive at ORNL?

Please arrive a full day in advance of your scheduled beam time to complete onsite training beginning at 9 a.m. on the day of arrival. With training complete, you can begin your research more quickly on the following day when your scheduled beam time begins. This is especially helpful for users performing shorter experiments of just a few days.

What should I bring to ORNL?

Please bring the following documents when you come to ORNL:

  • A current government-issued photo identification (this is required for everyone to access ORNL)
  • Your passport and a visa (if applicable) if you are a foreign national

Other than the documents listed above, you will need to bring only your study sample and personal items (clothing, personal hygiene items, etc.) necessary for the length of your stay. Computers, smart phones, and tablets are welcome in most areas of the ORNL campus (with some restrictions), and much of the campus has wireless internet access for guests.

The following items are prohibited on the ORNL campus: firearms and other weapons, alcohol, explosives, dangerous instruments or materials likely to produce substantial injury to persons or damage to property, controlled substances including illegal drugs and associated paraphernalia, and any items prohibited by law.

Where do I send my samples before I come to ORNL?

Samples for neutron studies should not be mailed to the general ORNL address. For detailed information on shipping your sample, including appropriate shipping addresses, visit the ORNL User Facilities Sample Handling and Shipping page.

How can I get my samples back after my research has ended?

ORNL may return any sample that is requested by a user. However, users must be capable of safely receiving a sample that is activated, and not all users work at facilities that are equipped to accept an activated sample. ORNL does not have space to store activated samples until they become inactive, so the lab will safely dispose of activated samples that are not returned to users.

While you are at ORNL, talk with your contact or an instrument scientist for more information about the possibility of having your sample returned. You can learn more on the ORNL User Facilities Sample Handling and Shipping page.


Can I keep my badge and dosimeter when my research at ORNL is complete?

In general, no. Your badge and dosimeter are the property of ORNL and must be returned when you leave the lab at the conclusion of your research. However, intermittent users who have an expiration date printed on their badge may keep their badge (but not their dosimeter) if they wish.

A drop box is located at each portal to collect badges and dosimeters from departing researchers. Alternately, the dosimeter may be returned to the User Office at the end of your visit.

What should I do if I lose my badge? What if it doesn’t work?

If you lose your badge, report the loss immediately—in person or by phone—to the Visitors Center (during daytime hours) or to the Laboratory Shift Superintendent on evenings, weekends, or holidays. You will be required to provide a current government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license) to be allowed on the ORNL site. You’ll be directed by security at the entry portal to go directly to the Visitors Center or the Laboratory Shift Superintendent’s office to complete paperwork about the lost badge and to receive a replacement.

If your badge is not working properly, go to the Visitors Center desk (865.574.7199) for assistance.