The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physics for pioneering contributions to the development of neutron scattering techniques for studies of condensed matter.
Shull made use of elasticscattering i.e. of neutrons which change direction without losing energy when they collide with atoms. Because of the wave nature of neutrons, a diffraction pattern can be recorded which indicates where in the sample the atoms are situated. Even the placing of light elements such as hydrogen in metallic hydrides, or hydrogen, carbon and oxygen in organic substances can be determined. The pattern also shows how atomic dipoles are oriented in magnetic materials, since neutrons are affected by magnetic forces. Shull also made use of this phenomenon in his neutron diffraction technique.
Brockhouse made use of inelastic scattering i.e. of neutrons, which change both direction and energy when they collide with atoms. They then start or cancel atomic oscillations in crystals and record movements in liquids and melts. Neutrons can also interact with spin waves in magnets. With his 3-axis spectrometer Brockhouse measured energies of phonons (atomic vibrations) and magnons (magnetic waves). He also studied how atomic structures in liquids change with time.
An early (1950) neutron diffractometer with flexible wavelength control here used by E.O. Wollan and C.G. Shull (standing) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.