Fast Neutron Imaging with Semiconductor Nanocrystal Scintillators

McCall, Kyle M.
Sakhatskyi, Kostiantyn
Lehmann, Eberhard
Walfort, Bernhard
Losko, Adrian S.
Montanarella, Federico
Bodnarchuk, Maryna
Krieg, Franziska
Keleştemur, Yusuf
Mannes, David
Shynkarenko, Yevhen
Yakunin, Sergii
Kovalenko, Maksym
Fast neutrons offer high penetration capabilities for both light and dense materials due to their comparatively low interaction cross sections, making them ideal for the imaging of large-scale objects such as large fossils or as-built plane turbines, for which X-rays or thermal neutrons do not provide sufficient penetration. However, inefficient fast neutron detection limits widespread application of this technique. Traditional phosphors such as ZnS:Cu embedded in plastics are utilized as scintillators in recoil proton detectors for fast neutron imaging. However, these scintillation plates exhibit significant light scattering due to the plastic-phosphor interface along with long-lived afterglow (on the order of minutes), and therefore alternative solutions are needed to increase the availability of this technique. Here, we utilize colloidal nanocrystals (NCs) in hydrogen-dense solvents for fast neutron imaging through the detection of recoil protons generated by neutron scattering, demonstrating the efficacy of nanomaterials as scintillators in this detection scheme. The light yield, spatial resolution, and neutron-vs-gamma sensitivity of several chalcogenide (CdSe and CuInS2)-based and perovskite halide-based NCs are determined, with only a short-lived afterglow (below the order of seconds) observed for all of these NCs. FAPbBr(3) NCs exhibit the brightest total light output at 19.3% of the commercial ZnS:Cu(PP) standard, while CsPbBrCl2:Mn NCs offer the best spatial resolution at similar to 2.6 mm. Colloidal NCs showed significantly lower gamma sensitivity than ZnS:Cu; for example, 79% of the FAPbBr(3) light yield results from neutron-induced radioluminescence and hence the neutron-specific light yield of FAPbBr(3) is 30.4% of that of ZnS:Cu(PP). Concentration and thickness-dependent measurements highlight the importance of increasing concentrations and reducing self-absorption, yielding design principles to optimize and foster an era of NC-based scintillators for fast neutron imaging.


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Citation Formats
K. M. McCall et al., “Fast Neutron Imaging with Semiconductor Nanocrystal Scintillators,” ACS NANO, vol. 14, no. 11, pp. 14686–14697, 2020, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: