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The Ohio State University Nuclear Reactor Lab (OSU-NRL) is used for a wide range of nuclear-related research endeavors, including evaluation of material elemental constituents using neutron activation analysis (NAA) and neutron depth profiling (NDP); evaluation of radiation damage to electronic components and other materials, such as optical fibers and optical fiber-based sensors; evaluation of neutron and gamma-ray radiation sensitive detector performance; isotope production; and biomedical experiments. The OSU-NRL staff provides a variety of instructional services ranging from general tours to group laboratory sessions, and facilitates research projects structured to student and faculty interests.
Education is a large part of the mission of the NRL. In addition to the laboratory support provided to the nuclear engineering graduate program at OSU, NRL facilities are used by a wide variety of students and educators. Several local middle and high school science classes tour the facility each year. Some of the students return to the NRL when the spring science fairs are announced. Recent projects have involved trace element analysis (through neutron activation), radiation effects on seeds, and half-life determination. Nuclear engineering and physics students from other universities in Ohio also utilize the NRL. Activities include basic reactor experiments (approach to critical, control rod calibration, etc.), neutron activation analysis demonstrations, and radiation safety training.
Research activities at the NRL are largely dictated by the interests of our users. These interests change as funding opportunities shift from one topic to another. Neutron activation analysis (NAA) is always in demand, as it is a tool with wide-ranging applications. In recent years, NAA has been used at the NRL to look for trace elements in plastics, soil, crustacean shells, and bird feathers.
The reactor and other NRL facilities are used to provide general radiation services to universities and businesses in the region. The reactor is routinely used for detector testing, isotope production, and neutron activation analysis. The gamma irradiators are usually used by individuals wishing to sterilize various substances. In addition to being used in activation analysis, the gamma spectroscopy system is also used for identification and quantification of radioactive samples.