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 Physicists discover that lithium oxide on tokamak walls can improve plasma performance
22.05.2017 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

nachricht Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan
22.05.2017 | City College of New York

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: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>