Introducing photons, neutrons and muons for materials characterization



The course runs for two weeks in a row in September before the regular semester lectures start. It takes place at the campus of the Paul Scherrer Institute. The first week consists of introductory lectures on the use of photons, neutrons and muons for materials characterization. Active participation of the students in the form of workgroups aimed at learning the basic concepts is also part of the first week program. The second week is focused on hand-on experiments on specific topics. The topical section includes tutorials and one to two experiments designed and performed by the students at one of the large scale facilities of PSI (Swiss Light Source, Swiss Spallation Neutron Source, Swiss Muon Source).


The aim of the course is that the students acquire a basic understanding on the interaction of photons, neutrons and muons with matter and how one can use these as tools to solve specific problems. The students will also acquire hands-on experience by designing and performing an experiment in a large scale facility of PSI (Swiss Light Source, Swiss Spallation Neutron Source, Swiss Muon Source).


  • Interaction of photons, neutrons and muons with matter
  • Production of photons, neutrons and muons
  • Experimental setups: optics and detectors
  • Crystal symmetry, Bragg’s law, reciprocal lattice, structure factors
  • Elastic and inelastic scattering with neutrons and photons
  • X-ray absorption spectroscopy, x-ray magnetic circular dichroism
  • Polarized neutron scattering for the study of magnetic materials
  • Imaging techniques using x-rays and neutrons
  • Introduction to muon spin rotation
  • Applications of muon spin rotation 


  • Philip Willmott: An Introduction to Synchrotron Radiation: Techniques and Applications, Wiley, 2011
  • J. Als-Nielsen and D. McMorrow: Elements of Modern X-Ray Physics, Wiley, 2011.
  • G.L. Squires, Introduction to the Theory of Thermal Neutron Scattering, Dover Publications (1997).
  • Muon Spin Rotation, Relaxation, and Resonance, Applications to Condensed Matter"
    Alain Yaouanc and Pierre Dalmas de Réotier, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 9780199596478
  • "Spin-polarized muons in condensed matter physics", S.J. Blundell, Contemp.Phys.40:175-192,1999 or
  • “Muon Spin Rotation”, A. Amato and D. Andreica, in “Encyclopedia of Condensed Matter Physics”, ed. by F. Bassani, G.L. Liedl, P. Wyder, Elsevier, Oxford (2005)Pages 41-49.
  • “Muon Spin Rotation (μSR): Applications in Magnetism”, A. Amato, in, “Reference Module in Materials Science and Materials Engineering”, from Encyclopedia of Materials: Science and Technology (Second Edition), 2001, Pages 5888-5892