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Interdisciplinary Nuclear Science

Project Full Title:

Applications of Nuclear Physics to Enviromental Science, Electrochemistry, Biophysics, and Forensic Science.

Project Mentor(s):


Project Mentor(s) EMail:

Project Start Date:


Project End Date:


Project Description:

This interdisciplinary project will incorporate the disciplines of Physics and Chemistry. However the project is housed jointly within the Hope College Departments of Physics and Chemistry. Your interest in one discipline or the other will help you be placed more in one group or the other which could move the start/ending date earlier by one week.

Hope College has its own 1.7 MV Pelletron tandem accelerator with a nuclear microprobe in the Hope Ion Beam Analysis Laboratory (HIBAL). We will be using this nuclear physics facilty to continue our interdisciplinary research in a variety of areas.

Most recently, a large emphasis on testing environmental and consumer goods for the presence of toxic chemicals has evolved. This involves looking for the signature of Cl and Br with Particle Induced X-ray Emission (PIXE) and F with Particle Induced Gamma-ray Emission (PIGE). With nuclear techniques the time required for testing is drastically reduced. Students will also be involved in characterization of electropolymer film thicknesses. With the nuclear technique Rutherford Backscattering Spectroscopy (RBS), it is possible to quantify the thickness and composition of the thin layers making up electrochemical probe samples. This technique can even be applied when the sample consists of multiple thin layers.

Another HIBAL opportunity for research students with a biochemistry background will be the continuation of a project to develop an ion beam analysis technique utilizing PIXE and Nuclear Reaction Analysis to obtain quantitative information about meltaloprotein stoichiometry.

Lastly, we are developing the tools and techniques to examine forensic trace evidence. The focus of the research done to date has been to develop the methodology to reliably and non-destructively compare various auto paint samples and draw conclusions about their similar or different origins with differential PIXE techniques. In all of these projects, students will be trained to use the accelerator facility, learn to prepare samples, acquire data and use various software techniques to analyze the data. Students will also present and work towards publication of their results.

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