Emission of Neutrons by Uranium

Phys. Rev. 56, 619 – Published 1 October 1939
W. H. Zinn and Leo Szilard


Fast neutrons emitted by uranium under the action of thermal neutrons were studied by using a radium-beryllium photoneutron source. The background due to the primary neutrons can be neglected since only a few of the photoneutrons are sufficiently fast to be counted. Data are obtained concerning the energy spectrum of the uranium fission neutrons by recording photographically by means of a linear amplifier and cathode-ray oscillograph the pulses due to helium atoms projected in an ionization chamber. Visual inspection of the record gives an upper limit of the spectrum of 3.5 Mev. The number of neutrons emitted is estimated by analyzing the pulse distribution of hydrogen atoms projected by uranium neutrons in an ionization chamber filled with hydrogen and argon. The number found is brought into relationship with the number of fissions, observed under comparable conditions in an ionization chamber lined with a thin film of uranium oxide containing a known amount of uranium. In this way it is found that about 2.3 neutrons are emitted per fission. The method used would permit a greater accuracy in the determination of this number than the actual accuracy obtained in the present experiments. This number, together with the fission cross section and the cross section for radiative capture gives the number of neutrons produced for each thermal neutron absorbed in uranium.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRev.56.619

  • Received 14 August 1939
  • Published in the issue dated October 1939

© 1939 The American Physical Society

Authors & Affiliations

W. H. Zinn

  • City College, The College of the City of New York, New York

Leo Szilard

  • Pupin Physics Laboratories, Columbia University, New York, New York

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