Neutrons Show Us What's Inside a Fly

Visual ScienceBy Rebecca HorneAug 28, 2012 11:42 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news Dr. Anton Tremsin and a team at the University of California, Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory have developed new neutron imaging techniques that beam particles on objects enabling high resolution images showing detailed interiors of materials and structures. While X-rays interact with electrons in the atoms, neutrons interact with the nucleus. This neutron imaging provides different contrasts and shows complimentary information to that of an X-ray. Neutrons can interact with hydrogen, and also can see through metals that X-rays cannot penetrate. Tremsin: "The fact that neutrons interact with the nucleus, as opposed to electrons in the case of X-rays, leads to a very different contrast mechanism. As a result, most organic objects are quite opaque and many metals can be easily penetrated. That allows seeing a drop of oil or gasoline inside a real aluminum-block car engine, a flower behind a granite wall, water flow inside metal pipes, strain in materials, etc." The image in this video is a reconstruction of a image of a horsefly on the tip of a hypodermic needle from a set of thermal neutron transmission images acquired with a neutron counting detector. Colors have been added to highlight the different tissues. Tremsin shows samples and demonstrations of neutron imaging in a recent lecture at Berkeley. Video created by scientists from Space Sciences Lab, University of California, Berkeley in collaboration with Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland.

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