Nuclear science basic research is inherently relevant to a broad suite of applications that are important to the Nation. The advancement of knowledge of nuclear matter and its properties is intertwined with nuclear power, nuclear medicine, national security, the environmental and geological sciences, and isotope production. The NP program develops advanced instrumentation, accelerator technologies and techniques, and analytical and computational techniques that are needed for nuclear science research and which have broad societal and economic benefits.
We also have a collection of spinoff applications.
The discovery and understanding of nuclear spin made possible the development of magnetic resonance imaging for medical use. Medical imaging, cancer therapy, and biochemical studies all rely on isotopes produced in accelerators that were first developed for nuclear research. Particle beams are used for cancer therapy and in a broad range of materials science studies. Valuable applications have resulted from research into isotopes and nuclear radiation, which made possible the entire field of nuclear medicine used today in both the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Each day, over 40,000 medical patients receive nuclear medicine procedures.
Sensitive detectors are deployed at borders and throughout the country do detect nuclear materials and components. Nuclear scanning techniques are used to screen cargo and luggage, for example at airports. Nuclear forensic methods are used to track and trace nuclear materials.
Techniques developed in nuclear research have found their way in industry for a variety of diagnostic measurements, including neutron and gamma-ray well logging, and non-destructive materials testing.
Methods developed in nuclear research are now used across many other fields of research. Carbon-14 and other dating methods are the best-known of these, and are used to determine the age of historical objects and geological samples. Isotope ratios serve as proxies for temperatures of ancient climates. Radioactive isotopes are used in chemical, and bioligical research and medical investigaations to label,trace and map chosen molecules
Yet another societal benefit of the NP program is the boost to the Nation's R&D workforce through its support of undergraduate researchers, graduate students working toward an advanced degree, and postdoctoral associates developing their research and management expertise. These researchers provide new talent in research and help meet the demand for skilled personnel in a wide variety of technical, medical, security, and industrial fields that require the unique problem-solving abilities and the computational and technical skills developed through an education and experience in nuclear science. Approximately half of the scientists trained as nuclear physicists are found in such diverse areas as energy, nuclear medicine, commerce, medical physics, space exploration, finance, and national security.