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SoNDe Report Summary

Project ID: 654124
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SoNDe (Solid-State Neutron Detector - A new Neutron Detector for High-Flux Applications)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-10-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The Solid-State Neutron Detector – SoNDe – project aims to develop a high-resolution neutron detector technique that will enable the construction of position-sensitive neutron detectors for high-flux sources, such as the upcoming European Spallation Source (ESS). This includes also the construction of a full-scale prototype as a research and innovation action. Moreover, by avoiding the use of 3He in this detector the 3He-shortage, which might otherwise impede the construction of such large-scale facilities, can be alleviated. The main features of the envisioned detector technique are:

• high-flux capability, capable of handling the peak-flux of up-to-date spallation sources (gain factor of 20 over current detectors)
• high-resolution of 3 mm by single-pixel technique, below by interpolation
• high detection efficiency of 80 % or more
• no beam stop necessary, thus enabling investigations with direct beam intensity
• strategic independence of 3He
• time-of-flight (TOF) capability, necessary to exploit maximum flux, with a time resolution in the µs regime
• modularity, improving maintenance characteristics of today’s neutron detectors

Compared to nowadays detector technique a gain factor in counting rate of 20 (for 3He detectors) is possible. Such gain factors will be needed to make the best possible use of sources such as the European Spallation Source (Sweden), the Institut Laue-Langevin (France) and the Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum (Germany), which are detailed in the ESFRI roadmap. Benefiting instruments at such a facility, among others, would be Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) instruments such as SKADI at the upcoming ESS, which was recently approved by the scientific advisory committee, neutron reflectometers and any instrument needing to detect neutrons with a millimetre accuracy on a large detector area.

Detectors of this kind will be capable of usage in a wide array of neutron instruments at facilities of European interest, which use neutrons to conduct their research, among them the Institute Laue-Langevin (ILL) in France, the Maier-Leibnitz-Zentrum (MLZ, former FRMII) in Germany, Laboratoire Léon-Brillouin (LLB) in France and ISIS in the United Kingdom which are in operation at the moment and the upcoming ESS. At these facilities neutrons are used as a probe in a wide array of fields, ranging from material science to develop new and smart materials, chemical and biological science to develop new drugs for improved treatment of a wide range of medical conditions, magnetic studies for the development of future information storage technology to archaeology, probing historical artefacts on a molecular level without physically destroying them. All these fields nowadays rely heavily on neutrons scattering facilities in their research and thus are in need of a reliable, high-quality neutron detection technique, which will be able to perform well at the new high-flux facilities such as ESS and simultaneously avoid the problem of 3He shortage.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Since the start of the project we have created two technical demonstrators. The first of those was a technical demonstrator to test the technical feasibility of the project and design decisions in hardware. As a single module it served for tests such as radiation hardness of the electronics, count rate capabilities and interplay between neutron detection, scintillation material and electronics. The results and experience gained from that first demonstrator were used in order to create the second demonstrator, that already establishes key parameters of the final product, mainly the modularity (being a 2x2 module setup) and communication between the single modules. This demonstrator is being tested at the moment in order to allow to check the design before going into upscaling to a large 1x1 m2 array. Before that can be done, issues such as heat production and power consumption, as well as communication with and between the single modules have to be adressed.

Additionally to the technical work performed on the SoNDe technology itself we adressed its wider implications, this mainly being alternative application cases different from neutron detection in large scale facilities. There we uncovered potential for the use of SoNDe in material testing, security scanners and medial scanners. The community of potential users in industry and science were informed about the status of the project and the potential of the technology at a dedicated workshop. This workshop also served as an important feed back tool for the project team to determine what the needs of potential users are. One of the major aspects shown here was the plug and play capability needed in industrial application, as well as the hazzle free integration needed for a wider acceptance of the project. Both these points are being included into the further development of the SoNDe project.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

At the end of the project we will deliver a fully functioning large-scale (1x1 m2) prototype of a neutron detector using the proposed pixelated scintillation technique. This prototype will prove the feasibility of the technology as well as its excellent performance at a large-scale neutron research facility like the upcoming ESS, preferably in a small-angle neutron scattering instrument such as SKADI.

Apart from the detector technique being usable in large-scale research infrastructure we envision also use of the technology in other technical and scientific fields, such as medical diagnostics and we are constantly monitoring the possibility of such multi-purpose use cases.

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