Go inside the Spallation Neutron Source in VR


Can’t come to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for a tour? We’ll bring the lab to you.

Now, anyone can visit the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and other ORNL user facilities through the lab’s virtual tour initiative.

The virtual tour of SNS, which allows viewers to virtually walk around the facility in the same manner as an in-person tour, features 360-degree views of the multi-level Department of Energy (DOE) neutron flagship facility. Visitors will have access to each of the 19 high-powered instruments as well as the construction site for VENUS, the facility’s newest instrument.

Along the way, visitors will be provided with interesting research examples, videos, and fun facts about the facility.

SNS is used by scientists from around the world to study energy and materials at the atomic scale. Similar to X-rays, neutron scattering is a powerful tool used to peer inside materials to reveal what they’re made of and how they work. Insights gained have led to many advances in medicine, transportation, engineering, and computing. Many of the materials of the future are being studied at the SNS today.

Neutrons are created at the SNS by propelling bunches of protons down a linear accelerator almost as fast as the speed of light. The bunches then collide with a steel target vessel filled with liquid mercury. Each proton that strikes the target creates about 20 neutrons that get sent to the surrounding instruments. When neutrons interact with the experimental samples, it tells scientists how individual atoms are arranged in the material and how they’re behaving.

Virtual tours are also in development for the SNS facility’s linear accelerator, the klystron gallery, and SNS’s sister facility, the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), one of the most powerful nuclear research reactors in the world.

SNS and HFIR are DOE Office of Science User Facilities. ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://www.energy.gov/science.