Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reactor Reveals Hidden Life Of Rocks

Date:
May 28, 2002
Source:
University Of California - Davis
Summary:
Geologists at the University of California, Davis, are using neutron beams from a nuclear reactor to see inside rocks. The method could be used to look for traces of life in rocks from Mars or very ancient rocks from the Earth.

Geologists at the University of California, Davis, are using neutron beams from a nuclear reactor to see inside rocks. The method could be used to look for traces of life in rocks from Mars or very ancient rocks from the Earth.

"Normally, we'd make a three-dimensional image by cutting the rock in slices. With this method, we can do it without destroying the rock," said UC Davis geology professor Charles Lesher.

Researcher Martin Wilding, geology assistant professor Dawn Sumner and Lesher have already used the method, called neutron tomography, to find bacteria living inside rocks collected in the Mars-like environment of Antarctica's dry valleys and Israel's Negev desert. They're also using it to study the structure of volcanic rocks and glasses, and of "black smoker" chimneys collected from the deep ocean floor.

Neutron tomography could also be used for biology experiments, such as filming water movement inside plants, Wilding said.

"We're just scratching the surface of what we can do," he said.

Neutrons are very sensitive to water and light elements such as the hydrogen and carbon, which are major components of living things. But they can pass right through a steel container. In contrast, water and most living tissue are fairly transparent to X-rays, but X-rays are stopped by heavier elements. That means that neutron beams can be used to scan a Martian rock for traces of life even while it is sealed in a metal container.

The process is comparable to a medical CT (computed tomography) scan with X-rays. The sample rotates in the neutron beam and a series of pictures are taken with a digital camera system. These two-dimensional images are reconstructed, using the same equations used for CT scans, into a series of "slices" through the sample. These slices can also be made into a three-dimensional image.

The neutron beam is generated by the research reactor at UC Davis' McClellan Nuclear Radiation Center. The reactor was built in 1990 by the U.S. Air Force to check for corrosion in aircraft components. It was transferred to UC Davis in 2001.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - Davis. "Reactor Reveals Hidden Life Of Rocks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020524072746.htm>.
University Of California - Davis. (2002, May 28). Reactor Reveals Hidden Life Of Rocks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020524072746.htm
University Of California - Davis. "Reactor Reveals Hidden Life Of Rocks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020524072746.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

Virtual Reality Headsets Unveiled at Tokyo Game Show

AFP (Sep. 18, 2014) Several companies unveiled virtual reality headsets at the Tokyo Game Show, Asia's largest digital entertainment exhibition. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple's iOS8 Includes New 'Killswitch' To Curb Theft

Apple's iOS8 Includes New 'Killswitch' To Curb Theft

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) Apple's new operating system, iOS 8, comes with Apple's killswitch feature already activated, unlike all the models before it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar. Stocks hit an all-time high on the news. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins