Reaction mechanism interplay in determining the biological effectiveness of neutrons as a function of energy

Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2015 Sep;166(1-4):316-9. doi: 10.1093/rpd/ncv134. Epub 2015 Apr 5.


Neutron relative biological effectiveness (RBE) is found to be energy dependent, being maximal for energies ∼1 MeV. This is reflected in the choice of radiation weighting factors wR for radiation protection purposes. In order to trace back the physical origin of this behaviour, a detailed study of energy deposition processes with their full dependences is necessary. In this work, the Monte Carlo transport code PHITS was used to characterise main secondary products responsible for energy deposition in a 'human-sized' soft tissue spherical phantom, irradiated by monoenergetic neutrons with energies around the maximal RBE/wR. Thereafter, results on the microdosimetric characterisation of secondary protons were used as an input to track structure calculations performed with PARTRAC, thus evaluating the corresponding DNA damage induction. Within the proposed simplified approach, evidence is suggested for a relevant role of secondary protons in inducing the maximal biological effectiveness for 1 MeV neutrons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA Damage / radiation effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Monte Carlo Method*
  • Neutrons*
  • Protons
  • Radiation Protection / standards*
  • Radiometry / methods*
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness*


  • Protons