Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lasers spark new paths in radio-isotope transmutation

29.08.2003


Scientific breakthrough in the transmutation of isotopes



Collaboration between the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) DG, the University of Jena (Germany), the University of Strathclyde (UK), Imperial College (UK), and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (UK) has led to the transmutation of long-lived radioactive iodine-129 into short-lived iodine-128 using very high intensity laser radiation. Until recently, transmutation could only be achieved in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators.

Transmutation – making use of nuclear reactions that will change very long-lived radioactive elements into less radioactive or shorter-lived products – is a concept for nuclear waste management under development in several countries. Very long-lived iodine-129 has a half-life of 15.7 million years, high radiotoxicity and mobility, and is an important constituent of nuclear waste – making it one of the primary risk considerations in the nuclear industry. It currently has to be sheathed in glass and buried deep underground. Handling of iodine is also difficult as it is corrosive and volatile. Through the laser-induced photo-transmutation process, this long-lived isotope was transmuted first to the short-lived isotope iodine-128, which then decays with a half-life of 25 minutes to the stable inert gas xenon-128. The experiments demonstrate the feasibility of transmuting radioactive iodine-129; limitations to scaling up this technique may be the high energy consumption of the laser and the low cross sections of the elements in question, resulting in low transmutation efficiencies.


The JRC Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, Germany first proposed use of laser radiation to split radioactive elements in 1990 but lasers of sufficient power were not available. Now a novel amplification technique (chirped pulse amplification) has boosted intensities to some 1020 W/cm2 – the equivalent of focusing the entire energy output of the sun onto an area of just 0.1 mm2. By focusing such a laser onto a tantalum metal target, the beam generates a plasma with temperatures of ten billion degrees (1010K) – comparable to those that occurred one second after the ‘big bang’ believed to have created the universe. The electrons in the plasma generate gamma radiation intense enough to induce nuclear reactions in the iodine target.

Through collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, experiments were performed with the giant pulse VULCAN laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. And, in collaboration with the University of Jena, the experiment was performed with a high repetition rate tabletop laser. This work opens the way to transmutation experiments on a laboratory scale – rather than at large-scale facilities – using much cheaper and more accessible instrumentation.

Further research is necessary to investigate the potential for scaling up the process to deal with the volumes of iodine-129 produced by the nuclear industry. From the present experiments, much useful basic information on transmutation reactions can be obtained. Nuclear cross section data on iodine was obtained for the first time for the photonuclear reaction described here. Laser induced nuclear reactions may also be used to transmute other elements. Indeed, the laser-induced fission of uranium-238 and thorium-232 had been demonstrated earlier through the above collaboration.

Joseph Magill | alfa
Further information:
http://itu.jrc.cec.eu.int/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm
16.02.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Supermassive black hole model predicts characteristic light signals at cusp of collision
15.02.2018 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>