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Adelphi Technology Inc.
2003 E. Bayshore Road
Redwood City, CA 94063

Tel: +1 (650) 474 2750
Fax: +1 (650) 474 2755

Academic and Industrial Applications

The neutron plays an important role in many nuclear reactions. Neutron applications have focused on measuring different elements in a variety of materials. Typically, neutron-generator-based approaches can provide this information much more quickly than other laboratory techniques.

Because fast neutrons have a large effective range of penetration in most materials—greater than 1-meter in many cases—neutron analysis of bulk materials has significant advantages over x-ray laboratory techniques. This is particularly true where sample collection and preparation are a problem, as when sampling is difficult or when the material is not homogeneous. The noncontact, nondestructive, and remote-measurement capability that neutron analysis techniques allow additional advantages.

Neutron capture can result in neutron activation, inducing radioactivity in a sample. This forms the basis of neutron activation analysis (NAA). NAA has been most often used to irradiate small samples of materials in a nuclear reactor, and then analyze the delayed gamma-ray emission after the sample is removed. With the introduction of Adelphi’s high-output neutron generators, which have an “off switch,” NAA becomes simple in a home lab experimental setup.

Prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA) is a similar technique, but one where the sample is not left in an activated condition. In PGNAA neutrons excite the sample while prompt gamma-rays from elements in the sample are measured and analyzed, simultaneously. PGNAA has been most often used to analyze industrial bulk materials on conveyor belts using neutron-emitting radioisotopes. Increasingly, this standard industrial work is being performed with neutron generators.

Cold, thermal and fast neutron radiation is commonly employed in neutron scattering experiments, where the radiation is used in a similar way one uses X-rays for the analysis of condensed matter. Neutrons are complementary to the latter in terms of atomic contrasts by different scattering cross sections; sensitivity to magnetism; energy range for inelastic neutron spectroscopy; and deep penetration into matter.