Engineers have successfully transferred digitally encoded information wirelessly using nuclear radiation instead of conventional technology.
Radio waves and cell phone signals rely on electromagnetic radiation for communication, but in a new development engineers from Lancaster University in the UK, working with the Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia, transferred information digitally encoded using “fast neutrons” instead.
The researchers measured the spontaneous emission of fast neutrons of californium-252, a radioactive isotope produced in nuclear reactors.
The modulated emissions were measured using a detector and recorded on a laptop computer.
Several examples of information i.e. a word, alphabet and a random number chosen at random, were serially encoded into the neutron field modulation and the output decoded on a laptop computer which has retrieved the information encoded on the screen.
A double-blind test was performed in which a number derived from a random number generator was encoded without the prior knowledge of those downloading it, then transmitted and decoded.
All transmission tests attempted were 100% successful.
Lancaster University Professor Malcolm Joyce said: “We demonstrate the potential of fast neutron radiation as a wireless communication medium for applications where conventional electromagnetic transmission is not feasible or is inherently limited.”
He said fast neutrons have an advantage over conventional electromagnetic waves, which are significantly weakened by transmission through materials, especially metals.
“In some critical safety scenarios, such as the integrity of reactor containment structures and metal vaults and bulkheads in marine structures, it may be important to minimize the number of penetrations made through these metal structures for cabling. communications. The use of neutrons for the transmission of information through such structures could negate the need for such penetrations and may also be relevant in scenarios where limited transmissions are desirable under difficult circumstances, such as for rescue operations. emergency.
Fast neutrons could also be incorporated into mixed-signal electronic systems to obtain a mixture of signals between electrons and neutrons. This could contribute to the requirement to ensure the integrity of the information transfer.
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