Neutron Technique May Help Coal, Cement Industries

October 17, 1996

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Oct. 17, 1996 -- A nonintrusive inspection technique that probes samples with neutrons can analyze the content of coal and cement and detect explosives and drugs. It also shows promise for locating plastic and wooden land mines.

Developed by The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Western Kentucky University (WKU) researchers, the pulsed fast-thermal neutron analysis system bombards a sample with pulses of fast and slow, or thermal, neutrons. Fast neutrons collide with some atoms, triggering the release of gamma rays. Between pulses, thermal neutrons are captured by other atoms, causing emission of gamma rays. Detectors measure energies of the combined gamma rays, which are unique for each element.

Gamma-ray fingerprints permit accurate determinations of concentrations of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, sulfur, and other elements in samples. Using both fast and slow neutrons allows detection of a greater number of common elements. For example, carbon can be readily identified using fast, but not slow, neutrons; the reverse is true for chlorine. The technique's power lies in its ability to measure elemental content, on-line, during industrial operations.

Negotiations are under way to install a prototype pulsed-neutron generator system at an operating coal-fired power plant. "The coal industry has a strong need for this on-line analytical capability," says Frederick J. Schultz, co-developer of the new technique. "To accurately price coal or blend it to make it cleaner, it helps to know the sulfur content. To operate a coal power plant as efficiently as possible, it is important to know how much carbon and oxygen are in the coal. To reduce fouling and slagging in boilers, it is wise to burn coal low in chlorine."

Because chlorine is a "poison" in crystallization of cement, manufacturers of cement have also expressed an interest in on-line analytical capability for quality and process control.

WKU researchers led by George Vourvopoulos have demonstrated the techique's ability to distinguish between actual and mock explosives in munitions shells in military proving grounds to speed up environmental restoration and to inspect pallets of rice, sugar, or coffee for cocaine and other contraband materials. ORNL researchers are investigating whether the technique can also guide the safe removal of land mines.

This research is funded by DOE's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

ORNL, one of DOE's multiprogram research laboratories, is managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation. # # # Written by Carolyn Krause

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Related Gamma Rays Articles from Brightsurf:

Properties of catalysts studied with gamma ray resonance
Steam-assisted oil extraction methods for heavy deposits have long been the focus of attention at Kazan Federal University.

Strange gamma-ray heartbeat puzzles scientists
Scientists have detected a mysterious gamma-ray heartbeat coming from a cosmic gas cloud.

Physicists find ways to control gamma radiation
Researchers from Kazan Federal University, Texas A&M University and Institute of Applied Physics (Russian Academy of Sciences) found ways to direct high frequency gamma radiation by means of acoustics.

Excess neutrinos and missing gamma rays?
A new model points to the coronoe of supermassive black holes at the cores of active galaxies to help explain the excess neutrinos observed by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

APS tip sheet: correlating matter's distribution in the universe with gamma rays
Scientists present the first direct cross-correlation between dark matter and gamma ray emissions.

APS tip sheet: High energy gamma rays
Nine Galactic sources are the highest-energy gamma -ray sources ever detected, which could suggest the presence of Galactic accelerators.

First detection of gamma-ray burst afterglow in very-high-energy gamma light
An international team of researchers observe a gamma-ray burst, an extremely energetic flash following a cosmological cataclysm, emitting very-high-energy gamma-rays long after the initial explosion.

Gamma-ray bursts with record energy
The strongest explosions in the universe produce even more energetic radiation than previously known: Using specialised telescopes, two international teams have registered the highest energy gamma rays ever measured from so-called gamma-ray bursts, reaching about 100 billion times as much energy as visible light.

Hubble studies gamma-ray burst with highest energy ever seen
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers a peek at the location of the most energetic outburst ever seen in the universe -- a blast of gamma-rays a trillion times more powerful than visible light.

The highest energy gamma rays discovered by the Tibet ASgamma experiment
The Tibet ASgamma experiment, a China-Japan joint research project, has discovered the highest energy cosmic gamma rays ever observed from an astrophysical source - in this case, the 'Crab Nebula.' The experiment detected gamma rays ranging from > 100 Teraelectron volts (TeV) to an estimated 450 TeV.

Read More: Gamma Rays News and Gamma Rays Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to