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Sci Adv. 2019 Sep 11;5(9):eaaw5526. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw5526. eCollection 2019 Sep.

Boutique neutrons advance 40Ar/39Ar geochronology.

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Berkeley Geochronology Center, Berkeley, CA 94709, USA.
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Institut de Physique Nucléaire d'Orsay, 91406 Orsay Cedex, France.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


We designed and tested a compact deuteron-deuteron fusion neutron generator for application to 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. The nearly monoenergetic neutrons produced for sample irradiation are anticipated to provide several advantages compared with conventional fission spectrum neutrons: Reduction of collateral nuclear reactions increases age accuracy and precision. Irradiation parameters within the neutron generator are more controllable compared with fission reactors. Confidence in the prediction of recoil energies is improved, and their likely reduction potentially broadens applicability of the dating method to fine-grained materials without vacuum encapsulation. Resolution of variation in the 39K(n,p)39Ar neutron capture cross section at 1.3 to 3.2 MeV and discovery of a strong resonance at ~2.4 MeV illuminate future pathways to improve the technique for 40Ar/39Ar dating.

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