Elizabeth Rona's Rabbits (1950s)

Rabbits are sample holders/transfer devices used to expose materials to neutrons, e.g., as in neutron activation analysis (NAA). In NAA, the sample is placed inside the rabbit and transferred via a pneumatic line to a reactor core or other neutron source for activation. Afterwards, the induced radioactivity in the sample is analyzed. The identity of the activation products is used to determine the elements originally present in the sample.

The  examples shown here were used by Elizabeth Rona who worked at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in the 1950s. The reactor she utilized was probably the Oak Ridge Graphite Reactor. Before coming to ORAU, Elizabeth Rona had worked with a whos who of nuclear pioneers including the Nobel Prize winners:  Marie Curie, discover of radium; Otto Hahn, discoverer of nuclear fission; and George de Hevesy, inventor of the radiotracer technique and neutron activation analysis.

These rabbits have the appearance and feel of being made of wood, but they are actually some type of composite (Micarta-like) material.  The two large rabbits are 3 1/2" long and 1 1/4" in diameter (outside) while the smaller one is 2 1/2" long and 3/4" in diameter (outside).

Donated by Roger Cloutier


Elizabeth Rona. How It Came About. Radioactivity, Nuclear Physics, Atomic Energy. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. ORAU.137. June 1978.

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Last updated: 05/10/11
Copyright 1999, Oak Ridge Associated Universities