Research in Action

Jefferson Lab

Technology that Overcomes Movement During Imaging


Jefferson Lab, in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University, has been developing a system for imaging in un-anesthetized, unrestrained mice.

Basic research into human disease states and pharmaceutical development depend heavily on biomedical investigations involving animal models. But studies are limited by the necessity of using anesthetic and/or physical restraint during imaging. Jefferson Lab technology has been used in an awake animal study. Unique mouse brain studies of gamma-ray emitting molecules are now underway at JHU with this never before available technology.

This methodology is now being extended to explore new ways to facilitate radioisotope imaging for plant biologists involved in bio-fuel and environmental research.

FEL Technology Helps Create Advanced Materials


Free-electron lasers (FELs) offer substantial cost and capability advantages—including advantages for high-volume materials processing—over other manufacturing tools. FELs based on Jefferson Lab’s superconducting electron-accelerating technology are being developed to process plastics, synthetic fibers, advanced materials, and metals as well as components for electronics, microtechnology, and nanotechnology.

These materials have a wide range of applications. Prospective products include durable yet attractive polymer fabrics for clothing and carpeting; cheap, easily recyclable beverage and food packaging; corrosion-resistant metals with increased toughness; mechanical and optical components with precisely micromachined features; microcircuitry; and electronics for use in harsh conditions.

Radioisotope Applications Improve Daily Life and Industry


Radioisotopes developed, studied or produced by nuclear physicists at facilities like Jefferson Lab have found their way into our homes and a variety of industries:

  • Americium is used in smoke detectors you buy at the local hardware store, to ensure uniform thickness in rolling processes like paper production, and to help determine where oil wells should be drilled.
  • Californium helps scan luggage for hidden explosives and gauge moisture content of soil in the road-construction and building industries.
  • Cesium is used as a thickness gauge in steel production, and to measure and control the liquid flow in oil pipelines.
  • Cobalt irradiation helps to sterilize surgical instruments and keep our food supply safe.
  • Iridium is used to test the integrity of pipeline welds and also in irradiation of tumors.
  • Thorium helps fluorescent lights last longer.

Refrigeration technologies first developed to operate superconducting particle accelerators, which must be kept super-cold, are now available for commercial use. NASA uses similar processes to replicate the super-cold conditions in space for equipment testing.

The ability to control and focus protons and the detector technology designed to monitor them have allowed researchers to develop an imaging technique that uses protons, rather than X-rays, for more penetrating power. Using proton radiography, researchers can therefore record more detailed information on the motions and densities of materials than was ever possible before. Other industrial uses for proton radiography include studying coolant flow in automobile engines and the pattern of energy dispersal from high explosives, as well as the capability to image components inside massive machinery.