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.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact The Technology Gateway at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: http://technology.nasa.gov/patent/TB2016/LAR-TOPS-187 .

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2017 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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