Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Neutron


Transmutation of long-lived fission products (LLFPs: (79)Se, (93)Zr, (99)Tc, (107)Pd, (129)I, and (135)Cs) into short-lived or non-radioactive nuclides by fast neutron spectrum reactors without isotope separation has been proposed as a solution to the problem of radioactive wastes disposal. Despite investigation of many methods, such transmutation remains technologically difficult. To establish an effective and efficient transmutation system, we propose a novel neutron moderator material, yttrium deuteride (YD2), to soften the neutron spectrum leaking from the reactor core. Neutron energy spectra and effective half-lives of LLFPs, transmutation rates, and support ratios were evaluated with the continuous-energy Monte Carlo code MVP-II/MVP-BURN and the JENDL-4.0 cross section library. With the YD2 moderator in the radial blanket and shield regions, effective half-lives drastically decreased from 106 to 102 years and the support ratios reached 1.0 for all six LLFPs. This successful development and implementation of a transmutation system for LLFPs without isotope separation contributes to a the ability of fast spectrum reactors to reduce radioactive waste by consuming their own LLFPs.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Neutron, Nuclear fission, Isotope, Nuclear technology, Neutron moderator, Neutron temperature, Nuclear transmutation


Cancer risk is an important concern for galactic cosmic ray (GCR) exposures, which consist of a wide-energy range of protons, heavy ions and secondary radiation produced in shielding and tissues. Relative biological effectiveness (RBE) factors for surrogate cancer endpoints in cell culture models and tumor induction in mice vary considerable, including significant variations for different tissues and mouse strains. Many studies suggest non-targeted effects (NTE) occur for low doses of high linear energy transfer (LET) radiation, leading to deviation from the linear dose response model used in radiation protection. Using the mouse Harderian gland tumor experiment, the only extensive data-set for dose response modelling with a variety of particle types (>4), for the first-time a particle track structure model of tumor prevalence is used to investigate the effects of NTEs in predictions of chronic GCR exposure risk. The NTE model led to a predicted risk 2-fold higher compared to a targeted effects model. The scarcity of data with animal models for tissues that dominate human radiation cancer risk, including lung, colon, breast, liver, and stomach, suggest that studies of NTEs in other tissues are urgently needed prior to long-term space missions outside the protection of the Earth’s geomagnetic sphere.

Concepts: Electron, Cancer, Ionizing radiation, Radioactive decay, Neutron, Neutron radiation, Mouse, Radiation


Nuclear fusion is regularly created in spherical plasma compressions driven by multi-kilojoule pulses from the world’s largest lasers. Here we demonstrate a dense fusion environment created by irradiating arrays of deuterated nanostructures with joule-level pulses from a compact ultrafast laser. The irradiation of ordered deuterated polyethylene nanowires arrays with femtosecond pulses of relativistic intensity creates ultra-high energy density plasmas in which deuterons (D) are accelerated up to MeV energies, efficiently driving D-D fusion reactions and ultrafast neutron bursts. We measure up to 2 × 106fusion neutrons per joule, an increase of about 500 times with respect to flat solid targets, a record yield for joule-level lasers. Moreover, in accordance with simulation predictions, we observe a rapid increase in neutron yield with laser pulse energy. The results will impact nuclear science and high energy density research and can lead to bright ultrafast quasi-monoenergetic neutron point sources for imaging and materials studies.

Concepts: Energy, Laser, Neutron, Nuclear fusion, Nuclear fission, Plasma, Helium-3, Tritium


Understanding adaptation to extreme environments remains a challenge of high biotechnological potential for fundamental molecular biology. The cytosol of many microorganisms, isolated from saline environments, reversibly accumulates molar concentrations of the osmolyte ectoine to counterbalance fluctuating external salt concentrations. Although they have been studied extensively by thermodynamic and spectroscopic methods, direct experimental structural data have, so far, been lacking on ectoine-water-protein interactions. In this paper, in vivo deuterium labeling, small angle neutron scattering, neutron membrane diffraction and inelastic scattering are combined with neutron liquids diffraction to characterize the extreme ectoine-containing solvent and its effects on purple membrane of H. salinarum and E. coli maltose binding protein. The data reveal that ectoine is excluded from the hydration layer at the membrane surface and does not affect membrane molecular dynamics, and prove a previous hypothesis that ectoine is excluded from a monolayer of dense hydration water around the soluble protein. Neutron liquids diffraction to atomic resolution shows how ectoine enhances the remarkable properties of H-bonds in water-properties that are essential for the proper organization, stabilization and dynamics of biological structures.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Water, Chemistry, Atom, Neutron


Anthropogenic activity is now recognised as having profoundly and permanently altered the Earth system, suggesting we have entered a human-dominated geological epoch, the ‘Anthropocene’. To formally define the onset of the Anthropocene, a synchronous global signature within geological-forming materials is required. Here we report a series of precisely-dated tree-ring records from Campbell Island (Southern Ocean) that capture peak atmospheric radiocarbon (14C) resulting from Northern Hemisphere-dominated thermonuclear bomb tests during the 1950s and 1960s. The only alien tree on the island, a Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), allows us to seasonally-resolve Southern Hemisphere atmospheric14C, demonstrating the ‘bomb peak’ in this remote and pristine location occurred in the last-quarter of 1965 (October-December), coincident with the broader changes associated with the post-World War II ‘Great Acceleration’ in industrial capacity and consumption. Our findings provide a precisely-resolved potential Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) or ‘golden spike’, marking the onset of the Anthropocene Epoch.

Concepts: Earth, Neutron, Pacific Ocean, Australia, Spruce, Picea sitchensis, Geologic time scale, Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point


High-temperature condensates found in meteorites display uranium isotopic variations ((235)U/(238)U), which complicate dating the solar system’s formation and whose origin remains mysterious. It is possible that these variations are due to the decay of the short-lived radionuclide (247)Cm (t ½ = 15.6 My) into (235)U, but they could also be due to uranium kinetic isotopic fractionation during condensation. We report uranium isotope measurements of meteoritic refractory inclusions that reveal excesses of (235)U reaching ~+6% relative to average solar system composition, which can only be due to the decay of (247)Cm. This allows us to constrain the (247)Cm/(235)U ratio at solar system formation to (1.1 ± 0.3) × 10(-4). This value provides new clues on the universality of the nucleosynthetic r-process of rapid neutron capture.

Concepts: Galaxy, Sun, Supernova, Solar System, Neutron, Isotope, Cosmic dust, Neutron capture


Space radiation is a great danger to electronics and astronauts onboard space vessels. The spectral flux of space electrons, protons and ions for example in the radiation belts is inherently broadband, but this is a feature hard to mimic with conventional radiation sources. Using laser-plasma-accelerators, we reproduced relativistic, broadband radiation belt flux in the laboratory, and used this man-made space radiation to test the radiation hardness of space electronics. Such close mimicking of space radiation in the lab builds on the inherent ability of laser-plasma-accelerators to directly produce broadband Maxwellian-type particle flux, akin to conditions in space. In combination with the established sources, utilisation of the growing number of ever more potent laser-plasma-accelerator facilities worldwide as complementary space radiation sources can help alleviate the shortage of available beamtime and may allow for development of advanced test procedures, paving the way towards higher reliability of space missions.

Concepts: Electron, Particle physics, Proton, Atom, Neutron, Background radiation, Van Allen radiation belt, Radiation hardening


Fast radio bursts are millisecond-duration astronomical radio pulses of unknown physical origin that appear to come from extragalactic distances. Previous follow-up observations have failed to find additional bursts at the same dispersion measure (that is, the integrated column density of free electrons between source and telescope) and sky position as the original detections. The apparent non-repeating nature of these bursts has led to the suggestion that they originate in cataclysmic events. Here we report observations of ten additional bursts from the direction of the fast radio burst FRB 121102. These bursts have dispersion measures and sky positions consistent with the original burst. This unambiguously identifies FRB 121102 as repeating and demonstrates that its source survives the energetic events that cause the bursts. Additionally, the bursts from FRB 121102 show a wide range of spectral shapes that appear to be predominantly intrinsic to the source and which vary on timescales of minutes or less. Although there may be multiple physical origins for the population of fast radio bursts, these repeat bursts with high dispersion measure and variable spectra specifically seen from the direction of FRB 121102 support an origin in a young, highly magnetized, extragalactic neutron star.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Neutron, White dwarf, Star, Original sin, Origin, Neutron star, Pulsar


Weapons-grade uranium and plutonium could be used as nuclear explosives with extreme destructive potential. The problem of their detection, especially in standard cargo containers during transit, has been described as “searching for a needle in a haystack” because of the inherently low rate of spontaneous emission of characteristic penetrating radiation and the ease of its shielding. Currently, the only practical approach for uncovering well-shielded special nuclear materials is by use of active interrogation using an external radiation source. However, the similarity of these materials to shielding and the required radiation doses that may exceed regulatory limits prevent this method from being widely used in practice. We introduce a low-dose active detection technique, referred to as low-energy nuclear reaction imaging, which exploits the physics of interactions of multi-MeV monoenergetic photons and neutrons to simultaneously measure the material’s areal density and effective atomic number, while confirming the presence of fissionable materials by observing the beta-delayed neutron emission. For the first time, we demonstrate identification and imaging of uranium with this novel technique using a simple yet robust source, setting the stage for its wide adoption in security applications.

Concepts: Nuclear physics, Fundamental physics concepts, Atom, Neutron, Nuclear fusion, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Nuclear weapon


Scalable and low-cost doping of graphene could improve technologies in a wide range of fields such as microelectronics, optoelectronics, and energy storage. While achieving strong p-doping is relatively straightforward, non-electrostatic approaches to n-dope graphene, such as chemical doping, have yielded electron densities of 9.5 × 10(12) e/cm(2) or below. Furthermore, chemical doping is susceptible to degradation and can adversely affect intrinsic graphene’s properties. Here we demonstrate strong (1.33 × 10(13) e/cm(2)), robust, and spontaneous graphene n-doping on a soda-lime-glass substrate via surface-transfer doping from Na without any external chemical, high-temperature, or vacuum processes. Remarkably, the n-doping reaches 2.11 × 10(13) e/cm(2) when graphene is transferred onto a p-type copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) semiconductor that itself has been deposited onto soda-lime-glass, via surface-transfer doping from Na atoms that diffuse to the CIGS surface. Using this effect, we demonstrate an n-graphene/p-semiconductor Schottky junction with ideality factor of 1.21 and strong photo-response. The ability to achieve strong and persistent graphene n-doping on low-cost, industry-standard materials paves the way toward an entirely new class of graphene-based devices such as photodetectors, photovoltaics, sensors, batteries, and supercapacitors.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Neutron, Semiconductor, Thin film, Copper indium gallium selenide, Schottky barrier