After more than 50 years, research physicists have located the fingerprint of radioactive plutonium, which may open the door for major advances in science and space travel for this element, commonly found in nuclear weapons.
According to LiveScience, scientists found the elusive “plutonium signal” by using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a method used to look into the electronic structure of atoms.
One of the major breakthroughs that this finding is expected to produce is an accurate way to measure the amounts of different types of plutonium and their efficacy.
“When someone has a nuclear reactor, with plutonium sitting there for a long time, you don’t really know how much is in there,” said study researcher Georgios Koutroulakis of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told LiveScience
Being able to more efficiently use Plutonium may also open the door to advances in space and interplanetary travel, and may lead to real-world development of exotic methods of propulsion.
Of course, using Plutonium for space travel is nothing new. It has been used in spacecraft since the Apollo years and in modern unmanned voyages to planets beyond the asteroid belt, like the Cassini mission to Saturn and the Galileo mission to Jupiter.