Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can ultrashort electron flashes help harvest nuclear energy?

13.07.2018

The lab of Fabrizio Carbone at EPFL and their international colleagues have used ultrafast Transmission Electron Microscopy to take attosecond energy-momentum resolved snapshots (1 attosecond = 10-18 or quintillionths of a second) of a free-electron wave function. Though unprecedented in itself, the scientists also used their experimental success to develop a theory of how to create electron flashes within zeptosecond (10-21 of a second) timeframes, using already existing technology. This breakthrough could allow physicists to increase the energy yield of nuclear reactions using coherent control methods, which relies on the manipulation of quantum interference effects with lasers and which has already helped advance fields like spectroscopy, quantum information processing, and laser cooling.

In fact, one of the most elusive phenomena in physics is the excitation of an atom's nucleus by absorption of an electron. The process, known as "nuclear excitation by electron capture" (NEEC), was theoretically predicted fourty years ago, though it proved difficult to observe experimentally.


A video illustrating the experiments and findings of this study.

Credit: Fabrizio Carbone/EPFL

But in February 2018, US physicists were finally able to catch a glimpse of NEEC in the lab. The work was hailed as ushering in new nuclear energy-harvesting systems, as well as explaining why certain elements like gold and platinum are so abundant in the universe.

The EPFL researchers in their publication suggest a way of potentially exploiting the several orders of magnitude in energy harvesting possibly present in the nucleus of an atom via the coherent control of the NEEC effect. Such method would be enabled by the availability of ultrashort (as to zs) electron flashes.

"Ideally, one would like to induce instabilities in an otherwise stable or metastable nucleus to prompt energy-producing decays, or to generate radiation," says Carbone. "However, accessing nuclei is difficult and energetically costly because of the protective shell of electrons surrounding it."

The authors state: "Our coherent control scheme with ultrashort electron pulses would offer a new perspective for the manipulation of nuclear reactions with potential implications in various fields, from fundamental physics to energy-related applications."

###

Other contributors

Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
University of Glasgow
Ripon College (US)
The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology
Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA)

Reference

G. M. Vanacore, I. Madan, G. Berruto, K. Wang, E. Pomarico, R. J. Lamb, D. McGrouther, I. Kaminer, B. Barwick, F. Javier García de Abajo, F. Carbone. Attosecond coherent control of free-electron wave functions using semi-infinite light fields. Nature Communications 12 July 2018. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05021-x

Media Contact

Nik Papageorgiou
n.papageorgiou@epfl.ch
41-216-932-105

 @EPFL_en

http://www.epfl.ch/index.en.html 

Nik Papageorgiou | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht 4D imaging with liquid crystal microlenses
20.11.2019 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Outback telescope captures Milky Way center, discovers remnants of dead stars
20.11.2019 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

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: Small particles, big effects: How graphene nanoparticles improve the resolution of microscopes

Conventional light microscopes cannot distinguish structures when they are separated by a distance smaller than, roughly, the wavelength of light. Superresolution microscopy, developed since the 1980s, lifts this limitation, using fluorescent moieties. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now discovered that graphene nano-molecules can be used to improve this microscopy technique. These graphene nano-molecules offer a number of substantial advantages over the materials previously used, making superresolution microscopy even more versatile.

Microscopy is an important investigation method, in physics, biology, medicine, and many other sciences. However, it has one disadvantage: its resolution is...

Im Focus: Atoms don't like jumping rope

Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies. Austrian and German scientists have now removed an important obstacle to their practical use. They were able to show that a special form of mechanical vibration heats trapped particles in a very short time and knocks them out of the trap.

By controlling individual atoms, quantum properties can be investigated and made usable for technological applications. For about ten years, physicists have...

Im Focus: Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery

An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.

With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

The neocortex is critical for learning and memory

20.11.2019 | Life Sciences

4D imaging with liquid crystal microlenses

20.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Walking Changes Vision

20.11.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>