These gamma rays, called MEGa-rays (for mono-energetic gamma rays), are made by using a beam of fast-moving electrons to convert laser photons (light at a lesser energy) into the gamma ray part of the spectrum.
The incoherent gamma rays can be tuned to a specific energy so that they predominantly interact with only one kind of material. A beam of MEGa-rays, for example, might be absorbed by the nuclear fuel uranium-235 while passing through other substances including the more common (but less dangerous) isotope uranium-238. That sort of precision opens the door to “nuclear photonics,” the study of nuclei with light.
“It is kind of like tunable laser absorption spectroscopy but with gamma-rays,” says Chris Barty of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who will present on MEGa-rays at this year's Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO: 2011, May 1- 6 in Baltimore) .
In the last couple of years, MEGa-ray prototypes have identified elements like lithium and lead hidden behind metal barriers. The next-generation of MEGa-ray machines, which should come on-line in a couple of years, will be a million times brighter, allowing them to see through thick materials to locate specific targets in less than a second.
Barty will present several MEGa-ray applications in use today and will describe the attributes of next-generation devices. Work is under way on a MEGa-ray technology that could be placed on a truck trailer and carried out into the field to check containers suspected of having bomb material in them. At nuclear reactors, MEGa-rays could be used to quickly identify how enriched a spent fuel rod is in uranium-235. They could also examine nuclear waste containers to assess their contents without ever opening them up. MEGa-ray technology might also be employed in medicine to track drugs that carry specific isotope markers.
Presentation ATuF2, “Mono-Energetic Gamma-rays (MEGa-rays) and the Dawn of Nuclear Photonics,” by Chris Barty is at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3.
Plenary Session keynote speakers include Donald Keck, retired vice president of Corning, talking about making the first low-loss optical fibers; James Fujimoto of MIT, talking about medical imaging using optical coherence tomography (OCT); Mordechai (Moti) Segev of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, speaking about the localization of light; and Susumu Noda of Kyoto University, talking about the control of photons in photonic crystals.
Online resources:• Conference program: http://www.cleoconference.org/Conference_Program
• Conference Registration: http://www.cleoconference.org/registrationPress Registration
Angela Stark | Newswise Science News
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