When beauty is only skin deep; optimizing the sensitivity of specular neutron reflectivity for probing structure beneath the surface of thin films
Specular neutron reflectometry has become an established probe of the nanometer scale structure of materials in thin film and multilayered form. It has contributed especially to our understanding of soft condensed matter of interest in polymer science, organic chemistry, and biology and of magnetic hard condensed matter systems. In this paper we examine a number of key factors which have emerged that can limit the sensitivity of neutron reflection as such a probe. Among these is loss of phase information, and we discuss how knowledge about material surrounding a film of interest can be applied to help resolve the problem. In this context we also consider what role the quantum phenomenon of interaction-free measurement might play in enhancing the statistical efficiency for obtaining reflectivity or transmission data.