Detection of gamma-neutron radiation by solid-state scintillation detectors

Thumbnail Image
Ryzhikov, V.
Grinyov, B.
Piven, L.
Onyshchenko, G.
Sidletskiy, O.
Naydenov, S.
Pochet, T.
Smith, C.
Date of Issue
It is known that solid-state scintillators can be used for detection of both gamma radiation and neutron flux. In the past, neutron detection efficiencies of such solid-state scintillators did not exceed 5-7%. At the same time it is known that the detection efficiency of the gamma-neutron radiation characteristic of nuclear fissionable materials is by an order of magnitude higher than the efficiency of detection of neutron fluxes alone. Thus, an important objective is the creation of detection systems that are both highly efficient in gamma-neutron detection and also capable of exhibiting high gamma suppression for use in the role of detection of neutron radiation. In this work, we present the results of our experimental and theoretical studies on the detection efficiency of fast neutrons from a {sup 239}Pu-Be source by the heavy oxide scintillators BGO, GSO, CWO and ZWO, as well as ZnSe(Te, O). The most probable mechanism of fast neutron interaction with nuclei of heavy oxide scintillators is the inelastic scattering (n, n'γ) reaction. In our work, fast neutron detection efficiencies were determined by the method of internal counting of gamma-quanta that emerge in the scintillator from (n, n''γ) reactions on scintillator nuclei with the resulting gamma energies of ∼20-300 keV. The measured efficiency of neutron detection for the scintillation crystals we considered was ∼40-50 %. The present work included a detailed analysis of detection efficiency as a function of detector and area of the working surface, as well as a search for new ways to create larger-sized detectors of lower cost. As a result of our studies, we have found an unusual dependence of fast neutron detection efficiency upon thickness of the oxide scintillators. An explanation for this anomaly may involve the competition of two factors that accompany inelastic scattering on the heavy atomic nuclei. The transformation of the energy spectrum of neutrons involved in the (n, n'γ) reactions towards lower energies and the isotropic character of scattering of the secondary neutrons may lead to the observed limitation of the length of effective interaction, since a fraction of the secondary neutrons that propagate in the forward direction are not subject to further inelastic scattering because of their substantially lower energy. At these reduced energies, it is the capture cross-section (n, γ) that becomes predominant, resulting in lower detection efficiency. Based on these results, several types of detectors have been envisioned for application in detection systems for nuclear materials. The testing results for one such detector are presented in this work. We have studied the possibility of creation of a composite detector with scintillator granules placed inside a transparent polymer material. Because of the low transparency of such a dispersed scintillator, better light collection conditions are ensured by incorporation of a light guide between the scintillator layers. This guide is made of highly transparent polymer material. The use of a high-transparency hydrogen-containing polymer material for light guides not only ensures optimum conditions of light collection in the detector, but also allows certain deceleration of neutron radiation, increasing its interaction efficiency with the composite scintillation panels; accordingly, the detector signal is increased by 5-8%. When fast neutrons interact with the scintillator material, the resulting inelastic scattering gamma-quanta emerge, having different energies and different delay times with respect to the moment of the neutron interaction with the nucleus of the scintillator material (delay times ranging from 1x10{sup -9} to 1.3x10{sup -6} s). These internally generated gamma-quanta interact with the scintillator, and the resulting scintillation light is recorded by the photo-receiver. Since neutron sources are also strong sources of low-energy gamma-radiation, the use of dispersed ZnSe(Te) scintillator material provides high gamma-radiation detection efficiency in that energy range. This new type of gamma-neutron detector is based on a 'sandwich' structure using a ZnSe composite film and light guide with a fast neutron detection efficiency of about 6%. Its high detection efficiency of low-energy gamma-radiation allows a substantial increase (by an order of magnitude) in the efficiency of detection of neutron sources and transuranic materials by means of simultaneous detection of accompanying gamma-radiation. The design and fabrication technology of this detector allows the creation of gamma-neutron detectors characterized by high sensitivity at relatively low costs (as compared with analogs using oxide scintillators) for portable inspection systems. The sandwich structure can be comprised of any number of plates, with no limitations on thickness or area.
Series/Report No
Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA
NPS Report Number
This research is supported by NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division in the framework of the Science for Peace and Security Programme
SPS (Science for Peace and Security Programme) Project SfP-984605
Ryzhikov, V. D., et al. "Detection of gamma-neutron radiation by novel solid-state scintillation detectors." 2015 4th International Conference on Advancements in Nuclear Instrumentation Measurement Methods and their Applications (ANIMMA). IEEE, 2015.
Distribution Statement
This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.