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Nuclear Excitation by Electronic Transition of U-235


Nuclear excitation by electronic transition (NEET) is a rare nuclear excitation that is theorized to occur in numerous isotopes. One isotope in particular, U-235, has been studied several times over the past 40 years and NEET of U-235 has never been conclusively observed. These past experiments generated conflicting results with some experiments claiming to observe NEET of U-235 and others setting limits for the NEET rate.

This dissertation discusses the latest attempt to measure NEET of U-235. If NEET of U-235 were to occur, U-235m would be created. U-235m decays by internal conversion with a decay energy of 76 eV and a half-life of 26 minutes. A pulsed Nd:YAG laser operating at 1064 nm with a pulse energy of 789 mJ and a pulse width of 9 ns was used to generate a uranium plasma. The plasma was captured on a catcher plate and electrons emitted from the catcher plate were accelerated and focused onto a microchannel plate detector. A decay of 26 minutes would suggest the creation of U-235m and the possibility that NEET occurred. However, measurements performed using a variety of uranium targets spanning depleted uranium up to 99.4% enriched uranium did not observe a 26 minute decay. Numerous other decays were observed with half-lives ranging from minutes up to hundreds of minutes. While NEET of U-235 was not observed during this experiment, an upper limit for the NEET rate of U-235 was determined. In addition, explanations for the conflicting results from previous experiments are given. Based on the results of this experiment and the previous experiments looking for NEET of U-235, it is likely that NEET of U-235 has never been observed.

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