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Russian university creates irradiation source for neutrino and dark matter detectors

June 30, 2017, 15:29 UTC+3 MOSCOW

In contrast to the item’s current analogues on the market, the source will be especially compact, safe for usage, and notably cheaper to produce

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© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, June 29. /TASS/. Belgorod State University’s (BelSU) International Laboratory for Radiational Physics has started work on a brand-new source of ionizing irradiation, the press office of BelSU reported. The new source can be applied to various scientific research projects, even for calibrating detectors of neutrino and dark matter with a fast neutrons flux.

"The results of our experiments demonstrate the possibility of creating (this new object which is a) source of ionizing irradiation coming from a pyroelectric crystal on the surface of which an electric current appears when the temperature changes," Alexander Kubankin, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Leader of the project, said.

"The preliminary tests showed that the source we have developed can generate X-ray irradiation with features surpassing foreign commercial analogues available on the market. In the near future, we are planning to make a prototype of the source which, by now, can be used for scientific and applied research," Kubankin added.

In contrast to the item’s current analogues on the market, the source will be especially compact, safe for usage, and notably cheaper to produce.

New source’s working principles

Ionizing irradiation is a flow of elementary particles capable of transforming a substance’s initially neutral atoms into ions through irradiation. Nowadays, the X-ray tubes emitting high-energy photons or various radioisotopes are analyzed mostly as sources of ionizing irradiation.

The new item will operate by pyroelectric crystal. With miniscule changes in temperature, an electrical potential of about 100,000 volts builds up on the surface of this crystal. The potential formed is enough to induce irradiation of electrons or ions of high energy from the surface of the material. According to the scientists, to adjust the temperature in order to activate the source’s functions, it is enough to connect it to a battery or even to sink the crystal to a glass with hot water.

Consequently, the new source is much safer than other modern analogues - it contains neither radioactive isotopes, nor sources of high-voltage power required for X-ray tubes. Moreover, it is notably more compact. The characteristic size of a capsule with the crystal does not exceed one centimeter in diameter and several centimeters in length.

New source’s applications

The development might be used for conducting various types of applied and fundamental research, for instance, in elementary analysis of substance composition or for tuning physical detectors of neutrino and dark matter particles. Additionally, the safety, compatibility, and low costs of the novel source of ionizing irradiation allow for creating platforms for laboratory experiments in nuclear physics, nuclear medicine, condensed state physics or biophysics.

The Belgorod scientists conducted the research by collaborating with colleagues from the Skobeltsin Institute of Nuclear Physics at Moscow State University and the Vekshinsky Scientific Research Institute for Vacuum Machinery, an industrial partner of the project. Now, BelSU has launched the design for the source’s prototype, with the next goal being the manufacture of the application.

"Our intention at the present time is to become first in producing a commercial source of ionizing irradiation based on the pyroelectric effect for calibration of low-background detectors. This will be an extremely handy tool which is required by many research teams," Kubankin said.

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