The radiation laboratory at the HT3R reactor will utilize the neutrons from the reactor core for advanced radiation-related research. Plans for the facility include a "rabbit" to whisk samples through the core of the reactor and back out to the lab for analysis, neutron and gamma-ray experimental areas, and a long-duration exposure capability inside the core for materials studies. Current plans are to create adjustable radiation extraction facilities to extend the life of the reactor's pressure vessel and to allow the most interesting science to dictate the type and amount of radiation extracted from the core for study. The inclusion of major radiation research capabilities at the reactor will help UTPB provide major research opportunities to students and faculty in physics, biology, chemistry, and materials science. The lab area is a 200'x100'x25' deep underground area with an 80 meter guide hall for experiments such as small angle neutron scattering.
A unique feature planned for the HT3R pressure vessel is a large-diameter beam port, approximately 1m2 in area. This large total flux will allow new classes of nuclear experiments to be performed. It's a technological challenge requiring a custom loading of the reactor fuel to compensate for the neutron loss, but this is a research reactor, so it's destined to do new and cutting-edge research! Stay tuned for new developments in the radiation laboratory plans.
The HT3R facility will allow UTPB to expand research in biochemistry. Neutron scattering experiments in the radiation laboratory will allow investigation of chemical structures on the scale of typical biomolecules. Advancements in the study of DNA have led to the decoding of the human genome:
This set of instructions for the construction of the human cells has major implications for biochemistry research. This trend is reflected by a 150% increase in the budget of the National Institute of Health (source: FASEB) over the past 10 years. Corporate spending in biochemistry research is similarly on the rise.
However, decoding DNA sequences is only the first step in the puzzle. The proteins that these genes make are the complex machines which actually run the functions of a living cell. These proteins fold themselves into complex shapes which determine their function. Determination of the structures of such complex biomolecules is necessary to determine how they work, and one of the best ways to do that is through neutron scattering. The 80 meter guide hall in the radiation laboratory will facilitate research of a scope similar to that done at the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Center for Neutron Research.