Measurements of thermal neutron diffraction and inelastic scattering in reactor-grade graphite

D. C. Bowman, D. C. Bowman, T. Hill, J. Long, A. P. Tonchev, W. Tornow, F. Trouw, Sven Vogel, R. L. Walter, S. Wender, V. Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-resolution Bragg-edge transmission measurements were conducted on granular as well as solid samples of graphite to understand the basis for a bulk measurement of the diffusion length 24% larger than predicted by MCNP5 for bulk reactor-grade graphite. High resolution enabled a measurement of the total diffraction cross section from 1 to 200 meV. This was subtracted from the total cross section to find the inelastic cross section in the same energy range. Small-angle scattering, which has been thought to contribute to the total cross section in the region of the lowest Bragg edge, is shown not to be present in our measurement or in those of others claiming to find it. Instead, neutron total reflection from the surface of graphite microcrystals is shown to contribute to the cross section at low energies. Reactor-grade graphite is shown to have an inelastic scattering cross section over most of the energy range larger by at least 10 than the nearly perfect crystal structure of pyrolytic graphite. The ratio of inelastic scattering to diffraction at 25 meV for our graphite is inferred to be twice as large as that of graphite manufactured 50 yr ago, and we believe that our larger diffusion coefficient is rooted in this difference. The distortions in the microcrystalline structure introduced in the manufacturing of the graphite studied here at 24°C are found to be equivalent to the uncertainty in atom positions seen in heating perfect crystal graphite to a temperature of ∼ 1800°C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-198
Number of pages17
JournalNuclear Science and Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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