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PartTec to Market SNS-Developed Neutron Detector System


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.

Module of a fiber neutron detector similar to those manufactured by PartTec for use in SNS’s POWGEN3 Powder Diffractometer and VULCAN Engineering Diffractometer.

"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, CEO of PartTec. “The detector is proving itself in the POWGEN and VULCAN instruments at the SNS."

Interest in the product ranges from neutron science facilities to security monitoring of land, air, and sea shipping for fissionable material. Recently, PartTec re-engineered the detector system as an alternative to existing helium-3 detectors, as helium-3 is in short supply.

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

"The system is modular so that very large detector arrays can be built," said Ron Cooper of the SNS development team. "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."

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, the neutron detector is the leading candidate to replace helium-3 detectors throughout the world.

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