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"I ragazzi di via Panisperna" - the inventors of neutron activation.

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:16 pm
by Chris Bradley
Neutron activation by slow neutrons was invented 80 years ago in Italy.

OK, so it is a 'natural process'. But manufacturing radioactive materials by exposure of stable isotopes to slow neutrons was a patented invention in the 1930's, by Fermi and his team at La Sapienza, University of Rome. The team acquired the name from their address in the Rione Monti.

I idled by this patent (attached) whilst looking up info on Bruno Pontecorvo, one of the 'Via Panisperna boys' in Fermi's team and a scientist who distinguished himself by being the only scientist who defected from West to East! I came across this interview with him, by a UK paper, from some years back:

The US version of the patent is attached, which may be interesting reading - they go through each element tested and comment, in plain text, on each reaction with slow neutrons from their 500 milliCurie Rn+Be source.