1970-1990, sample environments at the ILL

by Alain Filhol and Eddy Lelièvre-Berna

The ILL owes its undoubted success to a conjunction of favourable factors. First and foremost of course, the ILL high-flux reactor, unique in its field and unrivalled since 1972; then the prolific use of guides to transport the neutrons, allowing the number of spectrometers to be increased from about ten to nearly fifty. But there's more to it than that... What really brought scientists to the ILL from all over the world is the massive amount of effort put into providing highly productive sample environment facilities. It was what they needed to be able to heat up, cool down, compress their samples, or to apply magnetic or electric fields, etc. - as simply and reliably as possible. And it wasn't all built in a day!

This set of web pages is a compilation of the ILL Annual Reports from 1970 to 1990, together with commentary from some of the major actors involved. It focuses on the early days, for which, however, historical documents are thin on the ground.

As the CNRS's Henri Godfrin remembers,

From the very beginning there was intense interaction between the ILL, CNRS and Garching, whether on cryogenics, furnaces or pressure cells. Interaction was the key to ILL's success.

And there were also others, such as the CEA and other laboratories

How it got organised

Klaus Gobrecht:

Cryogenics was initially part of the Reactor Division. Very soon, a number of units shot up along the east flank of the ILL 7 guide hall for the different types of sample environment technique (cryogenics, furnaces, high pressure, magnetic fields and vacuums). The "Sample Environment" service was created  [by Mossbauer] and detached from the Reactor Division. It was first part of the "Instruments" department (J.-C. Faudou) and then later to EDEX (D. Wheeler). Dominique Brochier and myself shared the work, with Dominique mainly working on cryogenics and magnetic fields. I was on high pressure and vacuums. R. Serve was responsible for the furnaces.

They have contributed to these pages

To write this text I had to appeal to the memory of many colleagues still active or retired and the few documents that some of them have retained. I want to warmly thank them here:

Please, see the list of contributors here

I have personally lived the beginnings of ILL since the end of 1971 and I can testify that we rarely took photos at that time. In addition, the ILL has had several campaigns of intense emptying of cabinets which considerably reduced the stock of old documents. [AF]

Testimonies and documents ? Do not hesitate to contribute to <filhol(at)>