Measurement of the 240Pu/239Pu Mass Ratio Using a Transition-Edge-Sensor Microcalorimeter for Total Decay Energy Spectroscopy

Published: February 27, 2015


Daniel R. Schmidt, Douglas A. Bennett, James P. Hays-Wehle, Daniel S. Swetz, Joel N. Ullom, Andrew Hoover, Mark Croce, Michael W. Rabin, Evelyn Bond, Terry Holesinger, Gerd Kunde, Laura Wolfsbereg


We have developed a new category of sensor for measurement of the 240Pu/239Pu mass ratio from aqueous solution samples with advantages over existing methods. Aqueous solution plutonium samples were evaporated and encapsulated inside of a gold foil absorber, and a superconducting transition-edge-sensor microcalorimeter detector was used to measure the total reaction energy (Q-value) of nuclear decays via heat generated when the energy is thermalized. Since all of the decay energy is contained in the absorber, we measure a single spectral peak for each isotope, resulting in a simple spectral analysis problem with minimal peak overlap. We found that me- chanical kneading of the absorber dramatically improves spectral quality by reducing the size of radioactive inclusions within the absorber to scales below 50 nm such that decay products primarily interact with atoms of the host material. Due to the low noise performance of the microcalorimeter detector, energy resolution values of 1 keV FWHM at 5.5 MeV have been achieved, an order of magnitude improvement over alpha-spectroscopy with conventional silicon detectors. We measured the 240Pu/239Pu mass ratio of two samples and confirmed the results by comparison to mass-spectrometry values. These results have implications for future measurements of trace samples of nuclear material.
Citation: Analytical Chemistry
Volume: 87
Issue: 7
Pub Type: Journals
Created February 27, 2015, Updated November 10, 2018