The wireless transmission of encoded information by use of nuclear radiation in the form of fast neutrons instead of conventional electromagnetic radiation technology has been demonstrated by researchers from Lancaster University, U.K., and Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia.

To effect the data transfer, the fast neutron flux from a californium-252 source was modulated within a 1 m3 water-filled steel tank using a neutron chopper — a 120 mm-thick plastic shutter moved across an The modulator shown in position with the californium-252 source tank shown to the left. Source: Malcolm J. Joyce et al.The modulator shown in position with the californium-252 source tank shown to the left. Source: Malcolm J. Joyce et al.aperture by a microprocessor-controlled pneumatic piston. The researchers applied standard seven-bit ASCII code, which assigns a series of 1’s and 0’s to numerals, letters and symbols, to encode words and numbers. A “0” would briefly close the shutter, resulting in a change in the flow of neutrons that could be measured using a detector, recorded on a laptop and decoded as a “0.”

A double-blind test was performed in which a number derived from a random number generator was encoded without prior knowledge of those uploading it, and then transmitted and decoded.

According to the researchers, use of fast neutron radiation for wireless communication would likely be limited to applications where conventional electromagnetic transmission is either not feasible or is limited. In certain applications, fast neutrons could have an advantage over conventional electromagnetic waves, which can be weakened by transmission through metallic structures and materials.

The study methods and results are published in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research.

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