When we examine the world around us, we observe its structure, or where things are, as well as its dynamics, or how things move and interact. Likewise, when we investigate a new material, we want to understand its structure and dynamics—where the atoms and molecules are, and what they are doing. To do this, we need measurement techniques that can tell us what is happening at a very small scale. Read on to find out how neutrons come to our rescue!
Neutron radiation detection is an important issue for the space program, satellite communications, and national defense. But since neutrons have no electric charge, they can pass through many kinds of solid objects without stopping. This makes it difficult to build devices to detect them, so we need special materials that can absorb neutrons and leave a measurable signature when they do. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are studying the effects of solar neutron radiation on two types of materials on the International Space Station (ISS), using detectors made of very stable compounds that contain boron-10 and lithium-6.