Security personnel use several methods to detect suspect materials such as explosives and dangerous chemicals (see Physics Today, June 2014, page 62). But uranium—especially the highly enriched weapons-grade version—can be difficult to spot because it is easily shielded by a relatively small amount of lead, which absorbs the fissile material’s telltale emissions. However, neutrons directed at a suspect object can readily penetrate the lead shielding and produce enough fission neutrons and gamma rays to be detected. For field operations, small and light neutron sources are needed. Jennifer Ellsworth and a team of researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a suitcase-sized prototype neutron source that they say can be shrunk to a 5-kg, 20-W, lunchbox-sized device that could be easily transported to inspect a suspicious item. Central to the device is an array of 40 etched iridium tips (in the assembly at left in the figure...
Stephen G. Benka; Detecting shielded uranium in the field. Physics Today 1 January 2015; 68 (1): 16. https://doi.org/10.1063/PT.3.2644
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