NASA’s Langley Research Center has developed a nanostructure neutron converter layer that can be used for neutron detection. Neutron radiation is a significant risk in long-duration spaceflight and is also a risk in commercial aviation and nuclear reactors. This invention provides for more effective neutron radiation detection than currently available technologies.
Ionizing radiation, and in particular neutrons, poses a hazard to crew, passengers, and equipment in aerospace and other industries. For example, one hazard of neutron radiation is neutron activation — the ability of neutron radiation to induce radioactivity in most substances it encounters, including a person’s body tissues. The risk posed by radiation has long been recognized as one of the major challenges to frequent and long-duration spaceflight. To help address the risks posed by neutron radiation, effective neutron radiation detectors are needed.
This single-layer neutron converter can be used to convert neutrons into a readily detectable form of radiation. The neutron converter material has a high neutron absorption cross-section, tailored resistivity providing a good electric field penetration with submicron particles, and a high secondary electron emission coefficient. The material is formed by either sequential or simultaneous super-critical fluid metallization of a porous nanostructure aerogel or polyimide film. The neutron converter layer can also be formed by in-situ metalized aerogel nanostructure development.