Neutron Beam Helps You Unravel Your Burned Bones

By Money Times

Nov 18, 2015 05:48 AM EST

Specialists from Portugal are utilizing a neutron beam to ponder the molecular changes that happen when a bone burns.

The examinations, under way at Isis Lab in Oxfordshire, are aimed at solving an issue for archaeologists and forensic scientist. When bones get hot, they start shrinking, making the age, sex and size of their real owner much more hard to build,  as reported by BBC.

By bouncing the neutron molecules on the human bone samples, both burned and unburned, the team assumes they will get a fix for these changes.

"The problem ... when a skeleton is subjected to high temperatures, like in a plane crash or a bushfire, the bones are altered by a fire. One of those alternations is a change in dimensions," says David Goncalves, a bone specialist from the University of Coimbra.

"We are trying to see if those changes are quantifiable and if eventually, we can predict the amount of shrinkage or sometimes there's even an increase in size. It's pretty random and we are failing to understand that process."

"The reason neutrons are so helpful is that they allow us to see things that (lasers and other light beams) don't allow us to," explained co-researcher, Dr. Maria Marques.

With exact estimations of how neutrons scatter after they hit a bone sample, Dr. Marques and her colleagues will be able to create a picture which shows how atoms are arranged within that particular sample.

Each pair of the bones was first studied in unburned form then afterwards in burned form at 500, 700 and 900C.

She further elaborated, "We are measuring the changes in vibrations within the atoms in the bone. So we are measuring structure," as reported by Red Orbit.

The team is now starting the procedure of analysing the data, but the members are really excited of what they have observed so far. "We are at present quite confident," says Dr. Marques.

Professor Phil Manning from the University of Manchester visited Isis for an unrelated project. He is an expert and does not collaborate with the Portuguese team.  He said," It's an astonishingly valuable contribution. I think the application of this might stretch beyond the archaeological record even into the palaeontological record," as revealed by FTC Publications.

The team says that it will take even quite a few more years to determine a healthy 'un-burning' mechanism, but they will work on the project unless they reach a conclusive decision.

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