The present invention utilizes novel laser-based, high-brightness, high-spatial-resolution, pencil-beam sources of spectrally pure hard x-ray and gamma-ray radiation to induce resonant scattering in specific nuclei, i.e., nuclear resonance fluorescence. By monitoring such fluorescence as a function of beam position, it is possible to image in either two dimensions or three dimensions, the position and concentration of individual isotopes in a specific material configuration. Such methods of the present invention material identification, spatial resolution of material location and ability to locate and identify materials shielded by other materials, such as, for example, behind a lead wall. The foundation of the present invention is the generation of quasimonochromatic high-energy x-ray (100's of keV) and gamma-ray (greater than about 1 MeV) radiation via the collision of intense laser pulses from relativistic electrons. Such a process as utilized herein, i.e., Thomson scattering or inverse-Compton scattering, produces beams having diameters from about 1 micron to about 100 microns of high-energy photons with a bandwidth of .DELTA.E/E of approximately 10E.sup.-3.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.