A new compact high-flux source of energetic neutrons has been built by physicists in Germany and the US. The new laser-based device has the potential to be cheaper and more convenient than the large neutron facilities currently used by physicists and other scientists. The inventors say the source could be housed in university laboratories and might also be used to identify illicit nuclear material.
Neutrons are a valuable tool for scientists in many fields, allowing them to probe the structure and dynamics of a range of materials. Today, the main drawback of neutron science is that intense beams of neutrons must be produced in either nuclear reactors or dedicated accelerator facilities – making a laser-based table-top source very attractive.
Physics World: Neutrons on a lab bench