Field-Deployble Neutron Camera

Fast neutron & gamma-ray detection of special nuclear materials

Competetive Advanatage

The current invention is based on a “Tri-material dual-species neutron spectrometer” offering a further major improvement over the previous methods by combining new scintillator and readout techniques into a compact, rugged detector unit, which can be easily transported and set up in various flexible configurations. Such new system is capable of detecting, imaging and measuring both neutrons and gamma rays. It is based on three parallel plates, where the first and the second plates include arrays of plastic and scintillation detectors (or rods), respectively, while the third plate has an array of inorganic detectors.

Technology

Nuclear radiation detection has become a crucial technology in neutron scattering science and nuclear terrorism prevention. Development of new  materials is a biggest growth factor in the radiation detection industry with the scintillation, semiconductor, (and non-3He) neutron detector materials revenues expected to grow to $3.7 billion in 2020. While gamma rays are more common and easier to detect, neutron emissions detection remains difficult by its nature. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have applied a space-based (Astrophysics) technology to detect radiation threats by pinpointing neutron emissions that could tip off authorities to the location of (specific) material for a nuclear device from a safe distance (so called NSPECT technology). The technology provides a substantial advantage over the previously used bulky and fragile neutron (& gamma ray) cameras for detection of Special Nuclear Materials (SNM), greatly expanding its possible use by the military and other agencies in the field.

Opportunity

The inventors have demonstrated the power of neutron & gamma imaging spectrometers to identify and locate SNM at standoff distances. The newly available plastic scintillator with pulse-shape discrimination capability, combined with compact, lightweight Silicon Photomultiplier (SIPM) readouts, will enable this same imaging capability to be easily transported and set up in the field. For example, arrays of such detector units could be assembled and carried within standard (e.g. Pelican) cases, and placed back-to-back to form a double-sca1ter neutron camera controlled by a laptop with a few simple cable connections. A third layer of inorganic scintillator, with the same SIPM readout technology, could also be added in a third case, creating a full portable neutron/gamma camera.
 

Benefits

  • Imaging/spectroscopy system for fast neutrons and gamma rays
  • Portable, rugged system allows stand-off imaging in the field
  • Easy to transport and set up
  • Sources localized to ±3º and overlaid on optical camera image
  • Tablet-based graphical user interfaceSpectroscopy differentiates between source types (e.g., SNM vs. medical isotopes)

Applications

  • Industrial site monitoring
  • Dirty bombs/radioactive materials detection at ports and border crossings

Intellectual Property Status

US 9,507,035 B2
US 8,710,450 B2
US 62/504,739

LEAD INNOVATORS

Mark McConnell, Ph.D.

Dr. McConnell has more than 35 years experience in developing and using instrumentation for high energy astrophysics experiments. His Ph.D. research involved the development of a balloon-borne gamma-ray coded aperture telescope. Among the many hardware projects that he has been involved with, he is particularly interested in the development of experiments to study gamma-ray polarization.

Jason Legere

Jason is a Research Project Engineer for the UNH Space Science Center. He received his B.A. in Physics from the University of Southern Maine. He began working with the high energy astrophysics group as a masters candidate in 2004. His thesis work involved the further development of the GRAPE project and was completed in 2005. Following his M.S., Jason was hired by the group and has been running the activities in the lab since.

 

 

Contact Information

Matt Simon, Senior Licensing Manager, Engineering and Physical Sciences, UNHInnovation
matthew.simon@unh.edu
603-862-0829
innovation.unh.edu