“Neutrons for Society”—A Chat with Sweden’s Tommy Nylander

Tommy Nylander - 2

“I’d like to say that ESS [the European Spallation Source] is nothing magical, strange or science fiction.  It is a powerful tool that people are welcome to use.  That is said not only in the spirit of openness but to communicate that we are making ESS for the benefit of society.  These are ‘neutrons for society.’”—Tommy Nylander 

Lund University physical chemist Tommy Nylander likes to thoroughly punctuate his personal communications with exclamation points!  That’s just the way he sees life!  And so neutron scattering science in Sweden could not have a better ambassador!  

European Spallation Source (ESS) at Lund University, Sweden

“Neutrons for society” is what Nylander is promoting.  Neutrons for peace, prosperity, and for big leaps in scientific research with unparalleled accuracy possible for observation—including for the biological sciences.  Neutrons can pinpoint where hydrogens are within a protein, for example, as well as reveal the molecular dynamics of cells.  

And ESS at Lund University (construction now 48% complete) is slated to become the world’s most powerful facility for neutron science—eventually 5MW—with its neutrons generated via spallation. No nuclear reactor involved.  ESS is also mercury free.

Nylander has worked in neutron science for over a quarter century. In recent years he’s been using neutron scattering to look at biological surfaces—like in the interaction of proteins and lipids.  

He’s also researching the interaction of RNA and lipid membranes and has been a trailblazer in investigating the surface properties of DNA.  Nylander in our conversation that follows tells me he thinks advances in neutron scattering technology will lead to an understanding of the DNA “wrapping process.”

Last year the Swedish Chemical Society awarded Tommy Nylander its Norblad-Ekstrand medal for “outstanding scientific research” in physical chemistry. 

Story continued in new bookDarwin Overthrown: Hello Mechanobiology.

darwin overthrown - final - front cover









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