The Polaris instrument at ISIS is one of the most advanced neutron instruments in the world.

A ‘super microscope’, it will measure objects on the nanometre scale, a million times smaller than a speck of dust.

The giant camera will make images of the atomic structure of materials and will be able to watch chemical reactions in real time. Measuring the positions of atoms in a material allows you to understand completely why a material behaves the way it does.

The £4 million instrument took five years to design and build. It was assembled and installed in its final position at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source during November 2011.

Polaris will be of great use to both academia and industry.

Examples of its applications include:

- researching ways to improve the performance of laptop and mobile phone batteries;
- developing new engineering materials which are able to combine the favourable properties of both metals and ceramics.
- studies of catalysis where it will investigate new materials being developed for the synthesis of industrially important gases, such as ammonia, looking at chemical changes in the catalyst in real time under reaction conditions.

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