SBIR Phase I:Development of Robust, High Performance 6-Li Silicate Optical Fiber Neutron Detectors

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
NSF 09-609
Small Business Information
601 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN, 37830
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator
 Kenneth Weston
 (865) 425-8917
Business Contact
 Kenneth Weston
Title: PhD
Phone: (865) 425-8917
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop the technology needed for high performance scintillating optical fiber-based neutron detectors. Current scintillator technology has the potential to produce neutron detectors that are extremely sensitive, rugged, flexible in design geometry, have a large dynamic range (background to 10 Mcps), and do not contain toxic or regulated materials. However, the transmission distance of fibers based on existing materials and fabrication processes is currently <1 m, which limits the size and sensitivity of detectors that can be built. Improvements in the transmission distance of the scintillating fibers will have a transformational impact on the performance that can be achieved using this technology. The project, to be done in collaboration with scientists at the Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET) at Clemson University, will explore alternate fiber material compositions and fabrication processes that use glass performs, which are expected to afford the needed boost in transmission distance and lead to neutron detection systems with performance that will far exceed that of existing systems. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project includes filling a market need that is vitally important for the security of vulnerable nuclear weapons and materials, and for the prevention of illicit trafficking of these materials. The effectiveness of detection systems at high-risk border crossings, airports and seaports, as well as at nuclear weapons and components storage locations and research reactors, will be improved. Since neutrons are not emitted by most radionuclides used for medical or industrial purposes, the detection of neutrons is usually an unambiguous indicator of the presence of special nuclear materials (SNMs). Because the vast majority of neutron detection systems in existence today rely on 3He proportional counters and there is currently a global shortage of 3He, a suitable alternative neutron detection technology is urgently needed. We hold an exclusive license to the 6Li glass fiber neutron detector technology originally patented by Pacific Northwest National Lab and have ten years of experience implementing these devices in a wide range of radiation detection systems, from man portable systems to large vehicle mounted and stationary portal systems.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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