Neutron radiography provides the ability to image and detect defects in critical DoD components with applications ranging from artillery shells to air and spacecraft parts. Because neutrons react very strongly with low-density and hydrogenous materials, but react very weakly with metals, neutron radiography makes it possible to see inside metallic objects and composite materials to visualize structures that would be completely invisible on a conventional X-ray.
The US Army is actively seeking neutron technologies to detect defects in manufactured munitions. When cracks or bubbles form on the interior of artillery shells, they can compress and superheat during firing. This can cause premature combustion, resulting in injury or death to the gun crew. These defects are often undetectable with traditional X-ray technologies. They are detectable with neutrons.
However, until now, there have not been any non-reactor neutron sources available that are strong enough to take images in practical time periods. PNL’s technology has changed that. The 1,000X increase in neutron yield from the PNL neutron generator results in a 1,000X increase in image acquisition speed. Consequently, the PNL technology is bringing neutron radiography into production settings. A prototype has been delivered to the Army and a Pilot Production Unit is currently under construction.
These technologies will prevent defective munitions from reaching the field and will save warfighters lives.