Nuclear Forensics

Nuclear forensics is the analysis of nuclear materials recovered from the capture of unused materials, or from the radioactive debris following a nuclear explosion. This analysis can contribute significantly to the identification of the sources of the materials and the industrial processes used to obtain them. In the case of an explosion, nuclear forensics can also reconstruct key features of the nuclear device. Nuclear forensics is utilized by law enforcement to determine the origin of the materials or nuclear device.

Neutrons are very important in nuclear forensics because they are highly correlated with exposure to nuclear materials that are associated with nuclear weapons and reactors. Determining the energy spectrum of these neutrons can provide insight into the specific nuclear material. RMD is exploring the use of lithium ion batteries for detecting and characterizing the neutron energy spectrum. Specifically we are researching ways to:

  • Identify correlations between exposure and nuclear changes in the electronic device
  • Clarify potential means for read out of nuclear reactions to assess neutron fluence
  • Provide means for reconstructing the neutron spectrum

RMD is exploring methods to look at both the thermal (low energy) and fast (high energy) components of neutrons. We are using a threshold detector system that uses the nuclear reaction of neutrons with different atomic elements to generate a neutron spectrum. Certain elements can become activated through nuclear reactions that require an incident neutron with a minimum required energy. Each of these elements is a major component within the lithium ion battery. The challenge is to be able to distinguish specific reaction by-products from other, uninteresting reactions and to correlate the measurable by-products to the incident neutron field.
Major, Active Components of Lithium Batteries