April 15, 2020 – Neutron detection and imaging are having a prominent impact and have much more to contribute in the coming months. The information gained will dramatically increase our understanding of atomic scale structural and functional information of the new and deadly COVID-19 virus macromolecule. Neutron research reactors worldwide have now forcefully, and with remarkable speed, mobilized research teams in recent weeks to focus almost exclusively on gaining critical information on the virus. For example, knowledge of the protonation of enzyme reactions is greatly facilitated by neutron probes, which are uniquely able to reveal critical details about the structural positioning of hydrogen atoms in particular.
NOVA’s neutron detectors, for many years, have advanced the capabilities of national laboratories in tackling some of the most challenging neutron science experiments, both in the U.S. and worldwide. One powerful example of the ambitious efforts now underway is our long-standing partner the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where an intensive campaign is underway at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). Relevant experiments to more deeply and rapidly gain knowledge about the life-threatening virus include such neutron techniques as neutron macromolecular crystallography, small-angle scattering, reflectometry, spectroscopy, and high-resolution neutron imaging – the latter in particular an area where NOVA technology can provide a distinct advantage.
Finally, we also strongly support our colleagues at Columbia University, now urgently applying informatics techniques to understanding the virus in an interdisciplinary approach. Beyond measure, we are all grateful to the dedication and sacrifice of those on front lines everywhere.