Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have successfully demonstrated for the first time that laser-generated neutrons can be enlisted as a useful tool in the War on Terror.
The international research team in February used the short-pulse laser at Los Alamos’s TRIDENT facility to generate a neutron beam with novel characteristics that interrogated a closed container to confirm the presence and quantity of nuclear material inside. The successful experiment paves the way for creation of a table-top-sized or truck-mounted neutron generator that could be installed at strategic locations worldwide to thwart smugglers trafficking in nuclear materials.
“We have demonstrated for the first time a novel approach for generating a record number of neutrons driven by a laser directed into a beam over a very small area that could provide proof positive of a large variety of nuclear items,” said Los Alamos physicist Andrea Favalli, an Italian researcher who led the February experiment.
For the experiment, researchers at Los Alamos’s TRIDENT facility focused an extremely short and intense laser pulse onto an ultra-thin foil of deuterated plastic—a material in which hydrogen atoms within the foil were replaced with deuterium isotopes. To put the extraordinary experimental parameters in perspective, the power of the TRIDENT pulse is 50 times greater than the entire production of worldwide electrical power packed into a burst of energy lasting only one-half of one-thousandth of a billionth of a second (0.5 picoseconds). The TRIDENT beam is focused at the target into a spot 12 times smaller than a human hair. The thickness of the laser-target foil (0.3 microns) is about 300 times thinner than a human hair.
Read more at: Phys.org