Magazine article Science News

Glass Fibers to Channel Neutrons to a Focus

Magazine article Science News

Glass Fibers to Channel Neutrons to a Focus

Article excerpt

Like flat stones skipping across placid water, neutrons striking a material at very low angles glance off its surface. Taking advantage of this behavior, researchers have now demonstrated that bundles of glass fibers containing microscopically narrow channels can guide, shape and focus beams of neutrons.

Instead of penetrating the glass, neutrons stream down these channels, repeatedly reflected by their smooth, inner walls. By gently curving each of the fibers in a bundle, researchers can manipulate the emerging neutron beams to concentrate them on a spot much smaller than possible without this novel "lens."

"There are many other approaches for focusing neutrons," says R. Gregory Downing of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., who is a member of a team studying glass-fiber neutron lenses. "The difficulty has been to do that efficiently--to get intensities of neutrons useful for analytical purposes. By combining a number of technologies that just came together at one time, we've been able to accomplish that."

The idea of using narrow channels fabricated in glass fibers to control and manipulate both X-rays and neutrons originally came from Muradin A. …

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