Purdue University mass-alpha spectroscopy research draws notice

April 14, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Research into the high-resolution detection of plutonium mixtures by Purdue University professor Rusi Taleyarkhan and his team was featured on the cover of the February issue of the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy, published by the British Royal Society of Chemistry.

The published research focuses on novel hybrid mass-alpha spectroscopy technology. Taleyarkhan and his team applied centrifugally tensioned metastable fluid detector sensor technology to the detection of mixtures of plutonium-239/240. This technology can serve as an alternative to conventional alpha radiation spectroscopy sensors and to mass spectroscopy systems, which can take weeks to deploy and are cost-prohibitive, especially when deployed in low-radiation fields for long periods of time.

The technique: The technique relies on rotational motion and centrifugal force to vary pressure in a liquid detector. When the tensioned fluid at the center of the detector is hit by a particle with sufficient energy, a tiny, superheated bubble forms and implodes. The bubbles can be automatically counted at different levels of fluid tension to detect the composition of trace level alpha-emitting radionuclide mixtures.

The Department of Energy’s Nuclear Safety Research and Development Program supported work by Taleyarkhan’s team that applied the same technology to neutron dosimetry. That research was described in an article, titled “Purdue collaboration yields promising neutron dosimeter,” that was published in the June 2019 issue of Nuclear News and is available to ANS members in the Nuclear News archive.

The team: Taleyarkhan is an ANS Fellow and a professor in Purdue University’s School of Nuclear Engineering. Other authors of the recently published research are Catalin Harabagiu, a Purdue University graduate student; Nathan Boyle, a postdoctoral research assistant at Purdue; Brian Archambault, a senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and David DiPrete, a laboratory fellow at Savannah River National Laboratory.

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