Scientists have determined the mechanism and functional form for the yield of neutrons from a laser-driven source and used it to carry out a neutron resonance analysis much faster than conventional methods. This work may help bring non-invasive testing to more applications in manufacturing and medicine.
While most microscopes use photons or electrons to study small samples, scientists have also employed neutrons in a wide array of tests, such as in neutron scattering, to study both manufactured samples and biological specimens. As neutral particles, neutrons are ideal for non-destructive investigation of the magnetic and atomic properties of objects under consideration since they are unaffected by electric charge. Newer methods exist for producing neutrons in large numbers, like using laser-driven neutron sources, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear.
Now, a team of researchers has developed a laser-driven neutron source and determined a new scaling law between the laser intensity and the number of neutrons produced. They found that increasing the intensity yielded neutrons proportional to the fourth power, which can lead to large changes based on relatively small investments of additional power.
Using this law, a neutron resonance absorption analysis was performed to identify the elements in the experimental sample. According to the first author, neutron sources can be used in applications ranging from radiography, spectroscopy, and security to medicine.
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