Hoping to find a new technique to detect invisible nuclear materials, scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory developed laser-driven neutrons. The laser technology produces neutrons at over 150 million electron volts, which is equivalent to approximately 50 times the electrical power produced by the entire world. As soon as the neutrons detect any type of nuclear material, the encounter leads to fission and the release of new neutrons, which assures the technology’s efficiency. Zintro experts discuss the applications the new laser technology can create in the future.
As Boris Khaykovich, an expert in applied physics indicates, energetic and slow neutrons are very useful to explore the structure and dynamics of matter. “Since they don’t have electric charge, neutrons interact only weakly with matter and therefore could penetrate deep inside even very dense materials, which would be opaque to other probes, such as X-rays or gamma rays,” he explains. “However, the use of neutrons is limited because neutron sources are complex facilities such as research reactors or accelerator-based sources, which are considered as large national facilities.” Furthermore, Khaykovich points out that there hasn’t really been significant progress for neutron sources, as opposed to X-ray sources, which have shown tremendous success in the past 50 years, starting with the invention of synchrotrons. “The demonstration at Los Alamos might pave a wave to the creation of extremely bright novel neutron sources, which could potentially fit in a small university or industrial laboratory,” he adds. “It is an exciting development, which could lead to significant progress not only in national security applications, but also in material science, energy and biomedical applications.”
Ulrich Decher, an expert in nuclear power, believes in the technology’s potential to detect clandestine nuclear materials and makes recommendations, which will improve product development. “It seems that the challenge will be to make the device affordable and deployable and a sufficient scale to make a difference. The Los Alamos description of the device indicates that ‘..the power of the TRIDENT pulse is 50 times greater…’. The relation between energy and power is: Energy = Power * time,” notes Decher. “Since the time is very small, the energy is also very small even though the short duration power is very large. This may be a nit to readers, but it is crucial that the energy requirement of the device is small in order to be practical.”
By Idil Kan
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