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Neutron transmission imaging with a portable D-T neutron generator



A portable fast-neutron imaging system is being developed to provide complementary information to field X-ray imaging. Applications include inspection of vehicles and infrastructure for corrosion, measurement of material levels in containers, and inspection of munitions and suspicious packages. While fast-neuron imaging generally provides lower imaging resolution compared to X-rays, fast-neutron interaction cross-sections have a weak dependence on material Z. This enables imaging of low-Z materials inside high-Z materials. Here, we discuss the limitations and current improvements in fast-neuron imaging.


Limitations in portable fast-neutron imaging systems include low D-T neutron generator output, low light production in ZnS(Cu) imaging scintillators, low resolution due to scintillator thickness and D-T spot size, and digital-panel darknoise that varies in time and position and that can be 100× larger than the neutron signal. We have made improvements in these areas through development of a segmented high light yield scintillator, panel noise mitigation techniques, and testing of new high-output, small spot size D-T neutron generators.


The segmented high light yield fast-neutron scintillator demonstrated 5× increase in light compared to ZnS(Cu). An additional 2× improvement in signal-to-noise was demonstrated with panel-noise mitigation techniques. Our MCNP calculations also show good agreement with neutron imaging results


We have demonstrated improvements in fast-neutron imaging through development of a segmented high light yield neutron scintillator, mitigation of digital panel noise, and preliminary testing with new high-output, small spot size D-T neutron generators. We have also demonstrated good results modeling fast-neutron images and scatter effects using MCNP.

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source was oriented at 135° to provide a uniform neutron field. Note the emission angle towards the front of the tube (left side of plot) is kinematically 180° due to the ion acceleration in the tube being from left to right in the plot

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source with a 2 mm spot size


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This work was supported by the US DOE NNSA NA-22, NA-84, and LLNL-LDRD 20-SI-001, and was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract DE-AC52-07NA27344. On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest. Data is available on request.

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Kerr, P., Cherepy, N., Church, J. et al. Neutron transmission imaging with a portable D-T neutron generator. Radiat Detect Technol Methods 6, 234–243 (2022).

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  • Fast-neutron radiography
  • Portable neutron imaging
  • Neutron scintillators
  • Monte Carlo simulation