Getting a critical edge on plutonium identification

March 24, 2015 by Joel Ullom, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Getting a critical edge on plutonium identification
Two of the TES-based devices sitting on one key of a computer keyboard. The brown rectangle at the top is the mount upon which the gold-and-plutonium sample is placed. It is connected to the TES (pink lower rectangle).

A collaboration between NIST scientists and colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has resulted in a new kind of sensor that can be used to investigate the telltale isotopic composition of plutonium samples – a critical measurement for nuclear non-proliferation efforts and related forensics, as well as environmental monitoring, medical assays, and industrial safety.

The novel device, based on "transition edge" sensor technology developed at NIST, is capable of 10 times better resolution than all but the most expensive and time-consuming of current methods, and reduces the time needed for sample analysis from several days to one day. Researchers from NIST and LANL describe the new design and its results in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Plutonium (Pu), highly radioactive and extensively employed in nuclear weapons and reactors, has many isotopes, and any trace sample contains slightly different proportions. Pu-239 is the main constituent of both weapons-grade and power reactor-grade plutonium; Pu-240 is the principal minority isotope.

Analyzing the exact mass ratio of the two in a sample reveals important information about the material's origin, processing history, safety, and possible intended use. A key potential application in nuclear forensics is the attribution of a radiological event.

Until now, high-resolution mass-ratio results have only been possible by using mass spectrometry, a complicated procedure in which atoms of different masses travel different trajectories through a magnetic field. The more common, but less precise, method is to use solid-state detectors which absorb the alpha particles emitted by the radioactive sample and record their energy. Each isotope emits alphas with slightly different specific energies. So measuring the number of alpha particles at each energy level reveals the content of the sample.

"That sounds simple, but the issue is complicated by the fact that each isotope can have multiple decay modes that can lead to two, three, even four or more energies per isotope," says Joel Ullom, leader of NIST's Quantum Sensors Project. "Even the best solid-state detectors cannot fully resolve all of the alpha particle energies, so the analysis of data from solid-state detectors relies on extensive knowledge of all of the overlapping alpha particle energy lines."

The TES-based design has better intrinsic energy resolving power than solid-state sensors. But that is not the only advantage. "Since the TES is a thermal sensor, we can incorporate the radiological material directly into the sensor," says NIST project scientist Dan Schmidt. "The TES sensor can measure the total energy produced by each decay. This eliminates all of multiple alpha particle energies per isotope seen by conventional solid-state detectors, potentially greatly simplifying the analysis."

Transition-edge sensors (TES) are very small superconducting devices through which a trickle of current runs without resistance as long as the device stays below a critical temperature. Above that temperature, the sensor loses its superconductivity and reverts to normal electrical resistance. The device is cooled to the point at which it is on the edge of the transition between those two conditions.

When a photon or particle deposits energy into the TES (or a surface attached to it), it raises the temperature of the device, superconductivity ceases, and the sudden onset of electrical resistance registers as an electrical signal.

To use the new sensor design, the LANL researchers dissolved plutonium samples in solvent and placed a few drops on a piece of gold foil about one-sixth the thickness of a human hair. The solvent evaporates, and the foil is folded up so that all the Pu is enclosed. The folded foil is then squeezed about 100 times until the particle size of the solvent residue is minimized and the Pu and gold are thoroughly mixed. As a result, the gold will absorb nearly 100% of all the energy of radiation and convert it to heat.

The gold-Pu mix is then pressed onto a mount pad attached to a TES sensor. The NIST team had to design a new kind of TES that was mechanically robust enough to withstand the bonding force. Previous TES sensors used delicate membranes; the new sensors employ silicon mechanical beams for structural support.

Alpha particles emitted by Pu-239 raise the gold mix to one temperature; those from Pu-240 raise it to a different temperature. The highly sensitive TES detects the difference and the associated electronics records the number of each type. After 21.4 hours of data at approximately one emission detection per second, plots of the data points showed two distinct energy peaks, one for each isotope, with almost no overlap.

The scientists tested their TES results against mass spectrometer analysis of the same sample material and found the results to be in good agreement.

"Obtaining high quality results on much faster time scales than mass spectrometry is extremely important," says NIST project scientist Dan Swetz. "If a radiological event occurs, the forensics will need to be completed as quickly as possible."

The new sensor design is only the latest in a long series of TES accomplishments at NIST's Physical Measurement Laboratory. "We have spent the last two decades developing transition edge sensors and their superconducting electronics," says Dave Rudman, leader of the Quantum Devices Group. "The broad uses of these sensors include telescopes studying the remnants of the Big Bang, optical photon detectors for quantum communication, x-ray spectrometers conducting applied and basic materials research, and gamma-ray spectrometers for analyzing spent nuclear fuel. While these and the new plutonium device span many orders of magnitude in energy, the underlying fundamental measurement principle is the same."

Explore further: New high-resolution X-ray spectrometer for beam lines

More information: "Measurement of the 240Pu/239Pu Mass Ratio Using a Transition-Edge-Sensor Microcalorimeter for Total Decay Energy Spectroscopy." Anal. Chem., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.5b00195

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gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Plutonium is difficult to measure because it emits the Alpha particle, which can be stopped by a sheet of paper, but can kill you if ingested. Geiger-Muller tubes cannot detect them.

Take these to Fukushima and follow the path of the disaster.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2015
Plutonium is difficult to measure because it emits the Alpha particle, which can be stopped by a sheet of paper, but can kill you if ingested. Geiger-Muller tubes cannot detect them.

Take these to Fukushima and follow the path of the disaster.
Any expert will tell you that Pu contamination at sites like Fukushima is not measured that way.

"b. Although uranium and plutonium are both alpha emitters, field survey of uranium is best accomplished by measuring beta emissions from the thorium and protactinium progeny. For plutonium, the best technique is to detect the accompanying contaminant Am-241, which emits a 60-keV gamma ray. Knowing the original assay and the age of the weapon, the ratio of plutonium to americium may be computed accurately and the total plutonium contamination determined."

-How come you didn't know this?
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Oh, my, . . we are NOT doing a " field survey of uranium"! We are not detecting Uranium by the ratios of other elements.

I am astounded you did not understand what you were reading. We use scintillators to measure Alpha emitters, otto.

It's like you thinking my Senior Engineer job in Technical Services was like a city engineer, or a Nuclear Engineer! It shows ignorance on a grand scale, otto. If you do not understand the terms, how do you criticize my professional judgment? What are YOUR credentials?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
to measure Alpha emitters, otto
-If you were 'following the path' of Pu, IOW detecting contaminants in the environment, you would be looking for the gamma from Am.

As for your fake credentials, I showed you the minimum requirements for a typical SENIOR engineer level position. These qualifications are similar no matter what the particular expertise involved, and includes an engg degree, EIT or related experience for a minimum number of years, and usually a current PE in the state where you are employed.

Why don't you know these things? Is it because you thought you could call yourself a SENIOR engineer and no one would know the difference??

You are on a site full of engineers and scientists, most of whom are far more qualified and experienced than you. You continue to demonstrate this daily by displaying your ignorance of energy production and storage (PV cells manufactured with built-in storage) or Pu field detection, or thorium plant R&D. Daily.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
And BTW I see your ADD didn't allow you to read my full excerpt which was about Pu/Am. I knew I should've taken out the first sentence as it would only confuse you. Which it did. Sorry.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
" I showed you the minimum requirements for a typical SENIOR engineer level position. These qualifications are similar no matter what the particular expertise involved, . . . "
-----------------------------------------------

Anybody want to clue in otto? He really does think all them engineer jobs is alike. Yup, I did exactly the same thing as a Plant Engineer for an Iron Foundry as I did as a Electronic Test Engineer for National Semiconductor. Can't fool otto, . . . he's got wiki!

I have not seen such ignorance of technology since brain-dead Reagan.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Anybody want to clue in otto? He really does think all them engineer jobs is alike. Yup, I did exactly the same thing as a Plant Engineer for an Iron Foundry as I did as a Electronic Test Engineer for National Semiconductor. Can't fool otto, . . . he's got wiki!

I have not seen such ignorance of technology since brain-dead Reagan.
But deez wasn't no SENIOR level positions now wuz dey? I showed you the minimum qualifications for typical SENIOR level positions at PG&E, and you just don't measure up.

It's like when you compulsively tacked on the ' HIGH LEVEL' onto alpha radiation and then claimed that it couldn't penetrate skin.

See what a tangled web you weave when you choose to bullshit people who are smarter and more experienced than you? You should've learned this from all the supervisors you no longer work for.

And those weren't wiki you moron. They were actual job postings.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2015
How do we get this otto-freak off the thread? His fascination with me is scary, and I was told to not trust him. He has looked up my website and other information, and obviously has some kind of hateful mania.

Do we not have a moderator?
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Unit Three at Fukushima was spiked with Plutonium. They call it MOX, for Mixed Oxide, and it is more dangerous than Uranium.

The use of suppression pools was supposed to make the BWR's less costly by undersizing the Containment, and saying they could just condense the highly-radioactive steam in a pool or torus of water.

It didn't work, did it? Three complete meltdowns where none were deemed possible. Vaporized reactor materials and fuel particles were found over a hundred kilometers away. Those with no nuclear experience will try to make little of these disasters, and so will the Nuke Industry, having been proven wrong about their safety.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
How do we get this otto-freak off the thread? His fascination with me is scary, and I was told to not trust him
ANYBODY can set up a website and fill it full of all sorts of bullshit.
He has looked up my website and other information, and obviously has some kind of hateful mania
I told you - I hate liars and bullshitters. I hate people who make up their own science facts.
Do we not have a moderator?
Mods used to ban liars, flooders, and general OT posters. That means you.

You were never a SENIOR engineer were you? You were never a proper engineer at all, were you?
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2015
Is there a reason for this verbal vandal to lurk on this site, offending with his foul language and lack of manners?

I have to prove nothing to you, otto, you are just somebody hiding behind a pseudonym, taking shots at the Decent Folk.

This guy is WEIRD, folks. And may be dangerous. How do we dump him?

Meanwhile, back to the topic, Plutonium continues to travel to the sea from Fukushima.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Answer the questions, own up to your lies, and I'll leave you alone.
I have to prove nothing to you, otto,
-because you cant. Thats pretty obvious.
you are just somebody hiding behind a pseudonym, taking shots at the Decent Folk
Everybody here uses a pseudonym because they know better than to expose personal info on the internet. Are you saying theyre not decent?

And are you claiming that youre decent even though you make up shit about plutonium detection and PV panels being made with storage combined, and thorium reactor research being abandoned worldwide???

Maybe you think decent is YOU being allowed to make up whatever you see fit.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Meanwhile, back in the topic, Plutonium continues to travel to the sea from Fukushima, proving the idiocy of that Faustian Bargain.

It was clear in 1979 the GE BWR was unsafe. It was a terrible idea to use MOX in it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 24, 2015
Meanwhile, back in the topic, Plutonium continues to travel to the sea from Fukushima, proving the idiocy of that Faustian Bargain.

It was clear in 1979 the GE BWR was unsafe. It was a terrible idea to use MOX in it.
Coward.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
Does anyone have an argument against my opinion the GE Mark I BWR is unsafe?
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 24, 2015
I wonder when they are going to end the plutonium pollution of the Pacific by Fukushima? We now know that reactor one is empty of fuel, it having burned and turned into a molten blob of fuel, zirconium rods, and reactor vessel lying on the floor of the containment, hopefully not going to contact the water table.

Unjit Two is essentially the same, with a little fuel left inside. Unit Three probable had the entire reactor vessel in the huge explosion, which was not caused by Hydrogen. The differences are between an deflagration and a detonation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 25, 2015
The differences are between an deflagration and a detonation
The difference is only a matter of the velocity of the shockwave. What does that have to do with anything?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 25, 2015
In fact H2 doesnt even have to be confined to reach detonation.

"The limits of detonability of hydrogen in air are 18.3 to 59 percent by volume"
"Flames in and around a collection of pipes or structures can create turbulence that causes a deflagration to evolve into a detonation, even in the absence of gross confinement."
(For comparison: Deflagration limit of gasoline in air: 1.4–7.6%; of acetylene in air,[7] 2.5% to 82%)
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 26, 2015
otto, it was not H2 which caused the reactor vessel of Unit Three to ascend into the air, it was the criticality caused by the H2, compressing the molten fuel on the bottom of the reactor vessel. If you understood how GE Mark I BWR nuclear reactors work, you would know that.

You continue to look up words and phrases you do not understand trying to "prove" I am wrong, but it is you, the uneducated goober who gets it all screwed up.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 26, 2015
otto, it was not H2 which caused the reactor vessel of Unit Three to ascend into the air, it was the criticality caused by the H2, compressing the molten fuel on the bottom of the reactor vessel. If you understood how GE Mark I BWR nuclear reactors work, you would know that.

You continue to look up words and phrases you do not understand trying to "prove" I am wrong, but it is you, the uneducated goober who gets it all screwed up.
-So what does that have to do with detonation? H2 detonation can occur in various situations. It doesn't require criticality.

And WTF makes YOU think I don't know anything about detonation? I research and post refs to back up what I know. You don't, in order to hide what you don't know.

Sure, post your ref for the criticality discussion. I assume it's from your jap/Romanian crank site.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 26, 2015
This is a thread about the detection of Plutonium, which is difficult to detect, unknown to many. It can lodge in the lung, bombarding unprotected tissues with that Helium nucleus at 5.4 Million electron-Volts.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2015
it was not H2 that caused the explosion
Well you don't know that because you don't know what the terms detonation and deflagration mean, nor did you know that H2 can cause either, and apparently neither did your source which you haven't posted yet.

Is this the same source which convinced you that explosions could throw vessel parts 120km? Doesn't matter how many misc unrelated facts you want to post about nuclei does it?
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 27, 2015
It was 130 km away that they found molten parts of the reactor vessel and its fuel.

But this issue is Plutonium, one of the most deadly elements in existence, and it is ALL man-made. We now know there is NO FUEL left in Reactor One, and almost none in Reactor Two, Where did all that Plutonium go, otto? Since you do not know the difference between PWR and BWR and HTGC or other kind, how can you assure us you are correct? Just cutting and pasting words you do not understand won't do it, ottio, and is one of the marks of the ignorati.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 27, 2015
Once again, "Where did all that Plutonium go, otto?"
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2015
It was 130 km away that they found molten parts of the reactor vessel and its fuel
AGAIN you moron, according to your source what they found was 5µm dust grains, not parts.

Dust is carried by the wind.

You keep saying parts because you want people to think that a criticality THREW them that far, and then you dropped words you didnt know the meaning of (deflagration and detonation) to make it sound like you knew what you were talking about.

Even a thermonuclear device cant THROW macroscopic bits and pieces of anything 130km.

Your source mistranslated and misused the word 'parts'. But you read it verbatim and completely missed the nature of the material and the way it traveled that far.

You really are too stupid and too old to learn arent you?
gkam
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 28, 2015
OMG, otto, did I say "big parts", or parts? Yes they were vaporized by the tremendous explosions (which were supposedly impossible), but they were what was left of reactor vessel and fuel.

Where did all the Plutonium go, otto? All of them produce it. Unit Three was spiked with it, and it was the one which REALLY blew. Want references to the amounts?

ALL of it is man-made, otto. Where did it go? Are YOU going to find it for us?
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2015
"Even a thermonuclear device cant THROW macroscopic bits and pieces of anything 130km."
--------------------------------------

Prove it.

I think you have no idea of the power of thermonukes. Out biggest conventional bombs were exceeded by the first nukes by a factor of 1000, from tons to kilotons equivalent..

Thermonukes increase that another thousand times, and their output can be in Megatons of TNT equivalent. Interestingly, most of the additional energy does not come from the fusion, but from the fusion creating more Neutrons to increase the efficiency of a secondary or tertiary fission.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 28, 2015
Ahaahaaaa so youre claiming now that there were thermonuclear explosions at fukushima?
prove it
Well if you insist. Here is a map of the Nevada Test Site.
http://fas.org/nu...fig1.gif

-You will note that the entire site is only about 50km wide. Las vegas is about 110km away.

"before the onset of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the United States conducted, in addition to its underground tests, two small surface tests, one tower test and two cratering tests as part of the nuclear weapons testing program. Six nuclear cratering tests were conducted from 1962 through 1968 as part of the peaceful applications (Plowshare) program."
http://fas.org/nu.../nts.htm

Also note the craters
http://lh5.ggpht....gmax=800

-Do you see any such craters at fukushima? The devices which made these craters could not throw debris beyond the limits of the test site.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 28, 2015
But by your questions it is still clear that you think your source was talking about PARTS and not dust. If you had read the source you would have realized that he was talking about MICROSCOPIC DUST grains carried by the wind.

His english was bad. He mistranslated. Whats your excuse?

Instead of doing the research I just did, which took 10 minutes, you use a cracked rationale about thermonuclear weapons potential.

Youre not an engineer. You never learned to think like one. You have no appreciation for the work it takes to be one. And you certainly have no business pretending to be one, or to be at all capable of doing what they do.

You are a phony, a liar, and a waste.
gkam
2 / 5 (4) Mar 28, 2015
Otto, ever see the road that goes from the Nevada Test Site west, . . directly to what the goobers call Area 51, but what we at the Air Force Flight Test Center called our auxiliary airfield at Groom Lake? (Cue Theremin), . .

Check it out.
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2015
"Ahaahaaaa so youre claiming now that there were thermonuclear explosions at fukushima?"
------------------------

No, I was only showing off about my knowledge of nulcear weapons design and operation. Only someone with complete ignorance would think anything like that. Look up the differences between the gun device, the implosion device, then the diagram of a modern two-or-three-stage weapon, such as W87 or W88 warhead. Do it. You can actually see how they are built. No secret.

My gosh, otto, you do not know a bevatron from a krytron, yet you dare to question my credibility?
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2015
otto,look up krytrons, and who it was who let some go to Pakistan while A Q Khan was building the Sword of Islam, a thermonuclear device.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 28, 2015
No, I was only showing off about my knowledge of nulcear weapons design and operation. Only someone with complete ignorance would think anything like that. Look up the differences between the gun device, the implosion device, then the diagram of a modern two-or-three-stage weapon, such as W87 or W88 warhead. Do it. You can actually see how they are built. No secret
Dude, you google my excerpts, read the source, and repeat it here. Who the fuck do you think youre kidding??

Your knowledge of nuclear weapons and criticalities makes you think that H2 explosions have enough force to compress Pu, that nuclear explosions can throw stuff all the way to las vegas, and that chemical detonations are the same ar nuclear detonations.

Youre already exposed.
bevatron from a krytron
And you think dropping technical terms makes you sound more intelligent. What an asshole you are.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 28, 2015
"Dude, you google my excerpts, read the source, and repeat it here. Who the fuck do you think youre kidding??"
--------------------
Delusions, otto. You ought to have them checked. I do not remember you saying :"Look up the differences between the gun device, the implosion device, then the diagram of a modern two-or-three-stage weapon, such as W87 or W88 warhead."

No, otto, I had to learn about the Bevatron and krytrons as part of one of my jobs you like to attack, but only wind up showing how much about them you do not understand. Ask about them, and I'll teach you. And all engineers do not do the same thing, otto.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 29, 2015
No, otto, I had to learn about the Bevatron and krytrons as part of one of my jobs you like to attack, but only wind up showing how much about them you do not understand. Ask about them, and I'll teach you. And all engineers do not do the same thing, otto
Your job experience makes you think that H2 explosions have enough force to compress Pu, that nuclear explosions can throw stuff all the way to las vegas, and that chemical detonations are the same as nuclear detonations. And it makes you think you are an engineer.

Objectively you should look at your experience of losing jobs every 6 mos or so as a more apt indication of the nature of the knowledge you have gained, and your delusions of competence.

They never really stood up to scrutiny did they? They certainly don't here. The professionals here know you're a phony, no matter what you tell yourself.
gkam
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 29, 2015
So, it's Las Vegas now, it it? like my other "lies"?

Plutonium is one of the most deadly substances known to man. Otto has never been around any. He does not understand it. Yet, he wants desperately to tell off others he does not like. So he whines, accuses, lies, screams, and throws conservative tantrums. I'll bet after we post, he goes out to see if any kids are stepping on his lawn.

Otto, my posts are mostly from memory and experience. Your opposition is from personal and political prejudice. I had education and experiences you did not.

Grow up.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 29, 2015
So, it's Las Vegas now, it it? like my other "lies"?
You forgot already???

"-You will note that the entire site is only about 50km wide. Las vegas is about 110km away."

-Its only a few posts back -?
Plutonium is one of the most deadly substances known to man. Otto has never been around any. He does not understand it.
I understand that it cant be compressed by H2 explosions which is why they use very precisely-shaped high explosives instead of H2 in nuclear weapons. How come you dont know this???
Otto, my posts are mostly from memory and experience
Your memory is faulty and your experience exists mostly in your mind.
Your opposition is from personal and political prejudice. I had education and experiences you did not.
Your education and experience should have taught you to trust experts instead of making shit up yourself.
Grow up.
Adults can admit it when theyre wrong. You never did mature did you?
gkam
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 29, 2015
""-You will note that the entire site is only about 50km wide. Las vegas is about 110km away." "
---------------------------------

otto, you idiot, YOU said that, in response to one of my posts. You must have cribbed it from somewhere else. Look it up above, you silly old man.

Go take your nap.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2015
I understand that Pu cant be compressed by H2 explosions which is why they use very precisely-shaped high explosives instead of H2 in nuclear weapons. How come you dont know this???
gkam
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2015
Otto, thanks for being who you are, so I can brag about what I have done in my life.

Too bad you did not have one.

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