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Commercialization of the Micro Pocket Fission Detector (MPFD)

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0022841
Agency Tracking Number: 0000265664
Amount: $199,317.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: C54-36q
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-06-27
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-06-26
Small Business Information
United States
DUNS: 078496852
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (785) 532-3933
Business Contact
Phone: (785) 532-7087
Research Institution

Problem: A need persists for innovative sensors and measurement technologies to characterize parameters that directly support existing power reactors, materials test reactors, and transient test reactors. Science performed at DOE test reactors inspires future nuclear energy technology and requires more precise and localized instrumentation. Next generation nuclear reactors also benefit from higher precision, smaller, distributed instrumentation that can be mass produced for fuel and power monitoring.
Addressing the Problem: Here it is proposed to springboard on the strong MPFD development legacy to produce a viable configurable-commercial (C2-MPFD) that will help scientists and engineers continue to advance and implement nuclear fuel cycle and materials innovation. The C2-MPFD provides a per-customer solution for in-core neutron detection. C2-MPFDs are composed of a distributed array of small (~1-5 mm3) gas-filled chambers with fissile coatings, and the neutron reactive material can be tailored to the neutron energy regime of interest. These robust sensors will designed do withstand the high-temperature, high-pressure, high-radiation environment common amount test reactors and Gen IV reactors (SMRs, Micro-reactors, ISMRs). The specific aims of this project are (1) Evaluate current state-of-the-art of MPFD technology for redesign to improve manufacturability, reliability, and signal integrity, (2) design, develop, and demonstrate a high-throughput VLSI manufacturing capability for scalable MPFD production at low cost, and (3) solving reaming fabrication hurdles (e.g., chamber sealing) hindering full scall commercial production. A two-phase plan is proposed to accomplish this effort. In Phase I, C2-MPFD fabrication methodology for detector subcomponents will be demonstrated, specifically applying VLSI fabrication techniques and micromachining these hard ceramic-materials, raw-material supply-chain trade study, and C2-MPFD packaging for wide-range temperature operation. In Phase II, further work will be pursued to fully develop the C2-MPFD system, reduce its production-cost point, develop the readout electronics for the C2-MPFD. Phase II C2-MPFDs will be deployed and demonstrated at DOE National Laboratory Materials Test Reactors.
Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The scientific and commercial impact from the C2-MPFD is expected to be significant. The C2-MPFD instrument will directly impact the quality of nuclear reactor materials research and nuclear power research planned for many nuclear reactor facilities both government and privately owned. Additionally, the development of the novel C2-MPFD will benefit far reaching nuclear reactor applications like space power reactors being designed for long term flight and habitation missions. The small size of the C2-MPFD instrument is non-intrusive and will not cause flux depression or unwanted perturbations in the neutron flux, even for small reactors. Such applications would be the basis for a follow-on Phase III study. Technological advances of the C2-MPFD (and its VLSI manufacturing methods/processes) are needed to keep the US in the forefront of applications of science and engineering for the betterment of all society. The C2-MPFD will result in world-class advances at the cutting-edge of in-core neutron detector design and fabrication. Overall: The successful demonstration of the C2-MPFD technology will provide a new power-monitoring device for commercial and research nuclear-reactors extending to Gen-IV reactors. C2-MPFDs are central components to several ongoing DOE-sponsored projects. This effort will lead to improved quantification of reliability and uncertainty, which supports both current and future DOE work with MPFDs.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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