Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have for the first time simulated and quantified the early stages of radiation damage that will occur in a given material. A full understanding of the early stages of the radiation damage process provides knowledge and tools to manipulate them to the fullest advantage.
Nuclear radiation leads to highly energetic ions that can penetrate large distances within matter, often times leading to the accumulation of damage sites as the projectile passes through the material.
During this process, the energetic ions eventually slow down as energy is lost by friction with the materials’ electrons. Like a speedboat moving through a calm body of water, the passage of fast ions creates a disturbance in the electron density in the shape of a wake.
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About the graphic:
Model of the electronic wake (blue surfaces) generated by an energetic proton (red sphere) traveling in an aluminum crystal (yellow spheres). The resulting change in electronic density is responsible for modification of chemical bonds between the atoms and consequently for a change in their interactions.