ISIS-13 Building a database to discover the elemental composition of ancient artefacts using Neutron Resonance Capture Analysis
17 Jan 2018





When we investigate the origins and properties of ancient artefacts it is essential to determine their elemental composition without damaging the specimen. Neutrons represent an invaluable tool in this respect, thanks to their high penetrating power into dense  materials like metals and ceramics, allowing the determination of bulk properties of the artefacts. In particular, neutrons of energies in the electronVolt regime often have resonances in their capture cross sections, characteristic of the element/isotope responsible for the capture. This technique, called Neutron Resonance Capture Analysis (NRCA), has already been proven to work and the composition of samples such as ancient bronzes have been successfully determined. It is essential for the further development of the NRCA technique to build a reliable database containing quantitative information about the cross sections and resonance energies of the most common elements in the periodic table, in order to improve the data analysis capabilities of the NRCA method and extend its use to the study of a wider range of historical specimens..

The student will spend time at the STFC's ISIS neutron source, a world leading facility conducting research into the properties of materials across a broad range of disciplines. Specifically, during this project the student will learn the basic ideas behind the application of neutron induced nuclear reactions in order to characterise materials in terms of their elemental composition. The student will become familiar with the use of tools (e.g. nuclear physics databases) to extract the information essential to the NRCA technique. At the end of the project, the student will be able to compare their findings on the neutron cross sections with experimental results on standards of known composition and on ancient samples from museums, chosen as case studies. Data are already available for the analysis.

Supervisor: Antonella Scherillo,