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Transmutation of 64Zn to 65Cu has been observed in a ZnO crystal irradiated with neutrons. The crystal was characterized with electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) before and after the irradiation and with gamma spectroscopy after the irradiation. Major features in the gamma spectrum of the neutron-irradiated crystal included the primary 1115.5 keV gamma ray from the 65Zn decay and the positron annihilation peak at 511 keV. Their presence confirmed the successful transmutation of 64Zn nuclei to 65Cu. Additional direct evidence for transmutation was obtained from the EPR of Cu2+ ions (where 63Cu and 65Cu hyperfine lines are easily resolved). A spectrum from isolated Cu2+ (3d9) ions acquired after the neutron irradiation showed only hyperfine lines from 65Cu nuclei. The absence of 63Cu lines in this Cu2+ spectrum left no doubt that the observed 65Cu signals were due to transmuted 65Cu nuclei created as a result of the neutron irradiation. Small concentrations of copper, in the form of Cu+-H complexes, were inadvertently present in our as-grown ZnO crystal. These Cu+-H complexes are not affected by the neutron irradiation, but they dissociate when a crystal is heated to 900 °C. This behavior allowed EPR to distinguish between the copper initially in the crystal and the copper subsequently produced by the neutron irradiation. In addition to transmutation, a second major effect of the neutron irradiation was the formation of zinc and oxygen vacancies by displacement. These vacancies were observed with EPR.


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© 2014 AIP Publishing LLC. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. This article appeared in Journal of Applied Physics, 114, 243706 (2016) and may be found at



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Journal of Applied Physics