Applied Nuclear Physics Group

The group is a new research and education capability established through C-NET in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Research programme

The Manchester Applied Nuclear Physics group leads one of the six successful consortia in the 2010 EPSRC Nuclear Fission Call: "Nuclear Data: Fission Yields, Decay Heat and Neutron Cross-sections", with the Universities of Surrey and York.

Neutron cross section measurements

The nTOF neutron time-of-flight facility at CERN, Geneva  is dedicated to the measurement of neutron capture and fission cross sections with a focus on producing high-accuracy nuclear data to industry, the transmutation of waste and the development of next-generation reactors.

The nTOF facility features a high instantaneous neutron flux; low background, good neutron energy resolution and, following a four-year upgrade to work sector type A standard, the ability to handle unsealed, highly-radioactive targets.

A pulsed beam of 20-GeV protons (7x1012 ppp) incident upon a lead spallation target produces neutrons from thermal energies up to ~1GeV. Neutrons (~106 npp) arrive at the experimental area, 185m from the target, as a well-collimated ~4-cm diameter beam.

A range of detectors are available for capture and fission measurements. Cross sections measurements to date include; 54,56Fe, 62Ni, 234U, 237Np, 240Pu, 241,243Am. Measurements of the angular distribution of fission fragments have been performed for 233,235,238U, 232Th and 237Np. These measurements are all supported by the continuing characterisation of the lead spallation target, neutron beam profile and the variety of detectors used.

Measurements for 2011 and 2012 will include neutron capture in 57,58Fe, 60,61,63,64Ni, 235,236,238U, 239Pu, 243Am and neutron-induced fission in 235U, 239,240,242Pu.

Fission-yield measurements with the STEFF spectrometer

The SpecTrometer for Exotic Fission Fragments (STEFF) has been designed to determine the fission fragment distribution of fissile nuclides. The equipment has been designed and built in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

With its initial testing (using a 252Cf source) complete, STEFF was moved to ILL in 2011 to make use of the neutron beam from the High-Flux Reactor.

The next stage will be an upgrade to STEFF (including a flight path extension to 3m) and a move to the nTOF facility at CERN in order to make neutron induced fission measurements at higher energies relevent to the next generation of nuclear reactors.

Nuclear codes capability

The Nuclear Codes & Reactor Simulation suite supported by C-NET funding includes:

  • the REDQUEEN high-performance computer cluster (over 800 cores with over 8GB RAM each, running batch and interactive jobs, remotely accessible across campus)\
  • the ANSWERS code suite for reactor core analysis, radiation shielding and criticality calculations
  • the radiation transport codes MCNP and GEANT4
  • desktop reactor simulators for PWR and BWR

Training on all these codes is provided to students and researchers in the C-NET training suite, equipped with 18 PCs and instructors' PC with video projector.

In addition, the NEA Data Bank holds many nuclear-related software packages.

Education and training support

Nuclear physics teaching laboratory

Group members support education and training at several levels:

  • BEng, MEng in Mechanical Engineering with Nuclear Engineering, including nuclear practical labs, reactor simulators, applied nuclear physics
  • NTEC ( MSc modules; N03 Radiation & Radiological Protection, N01 Reactor Physics (support on practical assignments), N32 Experimental Reactor Physics (TRIGA, Vienna or VR-1 Prague)
  • Courses for EURATOM Safeguards Training (at DG TREN, Luxembourg), including Basic Nuclear Physics and Introduction to Nuclear Measurement (both in English)

The Schuster Building's nuclear teaching laboratory is equipped to investigate properties of radiation, gamma-ray absorption by matter, high-resolution and low-energy gamma-ray spectroscopy, half-life measurements of 116In with Geiger counter, alpha-particle energy loss in gases and solids, gamma-\gamma angular correlations. The lab also contains a Pu/Be neutron source in water tank for neutron-activation work.

Group members

  • Prof. Jon Billowes (Head of Nuclear Physics Group) 
  • Dr Gavin Smith (Senior Lecturer)
  • Dr John Roberts (Nuclear Fellow)
  • Toby Wright (Ph.D. student) 
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