Wisconsin Patent of the Month – June 2023

Neutron radiography and tomography have long been instrumental in nondestructive testing and quality control across various industries including aerospace and defense. They offer unique insights into the internal structure of components, especially those composed of high-density and low-density materials, which are challenging for X-ray imaging. However, the traditional use of nuclear reactors as neutron sources for commercial applications has proven costly and impractical.

Phoenix Neutron Imaging, LLC are experts in neutron imaging. In fact, their specialized neutron imaging facility is one of the only sites in the world offering production-scale, high-quality neutron radiography. With this portfolio, it’s no surprise to see they have been granted a patent for their neutron imaging technology.

Their state-of-the-art neutron imaging systems provide high-quality, high-throughput 2D and 3D fast or thermal neutron images, making commercial-scale imaging of industrial components more accessible than ever before.

One key innovation lies in the design of their compact neutron imaging systems. These systems feature a central neutron source assembly, which utilizes advanced techniques such as deuterium-deuterium (DD) or deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion reactions, proton-Be or proton-Li reactions, or linear particle accelerators and cyclotrons. These sources generate source neutrons that are subsequently used to produce thermal neutron imaging beam lines.

Phoenix Neutron Imaging’s systems implement independent neutron absorber-lined collimators. These collimators extend outward from the central neutron source assembly, collecting portions of the source neutrons and generating thermal neutron imaging beam lines. The use of multiple collimators enhances imaging capabilities, allowing for higher resolution and throughput.

Phoenix Neutron Imaging goes beyond neutron imaging alone. Their multi-modality imaging systems integrate additional nondestructive evaluation stations, such as x-ray imaging, ultrasound detection, magnetic resonance detection, magnetic penetrance, x-ray fluorescence, and thermography. This combination of imaging modalities provides a comprehensive fusion image data set, maximizing the information obtained from a component’s inspection.

To facilitate the imaging process, the company incorporates robotic motion components, enabling multi-image acquisition sequences for 3D tomographic image data sets. Additionally, their systems feature neutron focusing and reflecting elements that increase neutron flux and image resolution at the imaging plane.

Safety and practicality are paramount in Phoenix Neutron Imaging’s designs. They have developed automated object movement systems that allow for the insertion and removal of objects and imaging media without exposing humans to irradiation areas. Shielding assemblies and integrated bunkers provide the necessary protection from radiation.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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