Neutron Source for Security applications

Project: Research

Project Details


Trans-national border crime is increasing in sophistication and scale as criminals exploit our globalised societies, and terrorism is increasing across the globe as many disparate groups see violence as a means to achieve their aims. One of the most challenging problems in national security is the development of the capability to identify hidden threats, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or shielded special nuclear materials (SNM), in the field at large standoff distances. The applications for such a capability range from counter-terrorism to treaty verification, as well as cargo freight container screening. Actively interrogating possible threats using a low intensity neutron flux is a potential solution that could provide significant standoff or remote identification ability, thus helping to neutralize these dangers. Key to the development of this technology is the availability of neutron sources. The technology for these sources has previously focused on isotopes, spallation, or nuclear reaction. Spallation production requires large expensive infrastructure, costing many of millions of pounds to build, maintain and operate, as well as a very large geographical footprint. The use of isotopes requires having a constant source of neutrons (N) which can't be turned off, which presents a large number of safety issues, and produces only low energy N. Nuclear reactions such as Tritium's (T), T(D,n)4He, suffer from a number of issues limiting performance and use: lifetimes are limited to 109 -1012 shots, T radiotoxicity results in difficult handling and registration requirements even with small sample sizes, making transportation and use of systems that create or use tritium very restrictive. These approaches cannot produce short pulse lengths or high rep rates, which are required for security screening. This proposal is a joint effort between the Cockcroft institute, Lancaster University and Siemens, where we propose to explore the use of the conceptual compact accelerator the oniac to produce a compact, cheap, low intensity N source for security applications. This project builds upon the technology of Siemens and the accelerator expertise of the Cockcroft institute. We propose to explore the use of the oniac to generate neutrons using non tritium nuclear reactions, such as O(D,N). The CASE student will explore in detail the beam dynamics, emittance, activation, and using this data will then optimise the oniac design. The student will also examine the fusion target (design, reactions, N diffusion through the target), the resulting N beam, and the physics/suitability of the produced beam to screen for security threats. The detector will be considered primarily by the PI and the Siemens staff using existing technology. The educational value for the student working on this application lead project is immense, the student will develop a wide range of transferable, desirable, skills, from accelerator physics/engineering to fusion reactions, to real world industrial research experience. Given the wide potential scientific, environmental and social impact of this research and the applications it supports, one can expect significant economic potential. The PI maintains very strong links with Siemens, and with key security stake holders. Siemens have the necessary skill base and facilities to be able to exploit the output of our research programme in commercial products and use their advantage to establish a 'barrier to entry' to the market. Through Siemens the research will lead to wealth creation for the UK economy. The university will exploit their long standing and highly successful experience with KT programmes to ensure the success of the programme.
Effective start/end date1/10/1130/09/15


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