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ORNL's SNS-Developed Neutron Detector System to be marketed by PartTec


PartTec, an Indiana-based manufacturer of radiation detection equipment, has signed an agreement to manufacture and market an advanced neutron detector system developed at ORNL. The Shifting Scintillator Neutron Detector system was developed for DOE’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and High Flux Isotope Reactor complex, the world’s most advanced neutron science facility. This system can determine the time and position of the neutron captured, enabling extremely accurate neutron time-of-flight measurements. It has large-area detector coverage, extremely low power requirements, and digital communication capability, all factors that made it attractive to PartTec.

“PartTec has supported the work of the Spallation Neutron Source’s detector team for nearly 5 years with engineering, component manufacturing, and management expertise,” said Herschel Workman, chief executive officer of PartTec. “The detector is proving itself in the POWGEN and VULCAN instruments at the SNS.”

Commercial interest in the product ranges from use at other neutron science facilities to security applications such as monitoring land, air, and sea shipping for the presence of fissionable material. Recently, because of constraints on the helium-3 supply and projected increasing demand, PartTec responded by re-engineering this detector system for use as an alternative to existing helium-3 detectors.

ORNL researchers developed the detector system to provide the very large detector areas (up to 45 square meters in the SNS POWGEN instrument) and high rates required by SNS. Advances were made in the neutron-capturing scintillator, light-collecting optics, and data-collection electronics. The datacollection electronics use a new and unique method of determining the neutron event location by encoding a bit pattern produced by single photons.

“The system is modular so that very large detector arrays can be built,” said Ron Cooper, a member of the development team at SNS. “You can have greater than 50 square meters of detector coverage. It has high rate capability, good position resolution, and features modern distributed personal computer-based electronics.”

This system, developed by Richard Riedel, Lloyd Clonts, and Jason Hodges of ORNL’s Neutron Scattering Science Division, and Ron Cooper, Lowell Crow, John Richards, and Bruce Hannan of ORNL’s Neutron Facilities Development Division, is considered to be the leading candidate to replace helium-3 detectors at neutron scattering facilities throughout the world.

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