PNL Awarded $3 M Army Contract

Phoenix Nuclear Labs (PNL) announced today that it has been awarded a one-year, $3 million contract by the U.S. Army to build an advanced neutron radiography unit.

The neutron imaging system will be used for the nondestructive inspection of munitions, pyrotechnics and other critical defense components.  The company will deliver an upgraded, second-generation version of a similar system that it delivered to Picatinny Arsenal in 2013.  The new system is expected to generate 10 times the amount of neutrons, enabling faster performance, and will be capable of producing digital images that will improve the system's ability to analyze and store data.

Neutron radiography is a nondestructive inspection technique similar to X-ray imaging.  However, neutrons, unlike X-rays, are able to deeply penetrate high-density materials such as shell casings and other metallic objects and interact strongly with lower-density materials such as carbon or hydrogen.  The Army has been seeking neutron radiography capabilities for decades, but until now only nuclear reactors could produce enough neutrons to take images in practical time periods.  The technical innovations behind the PNL generator have led to orders of magnitude increases in neutron yield compared to existing off-the-shelf technologies, without the safety risks normally associated with reactors.

Ross Radel , PNL's president, credited support from the Wisconsin congressional delegation as key to the contract success.  "Advocacy from Sen. Tammy Baldwin , D- Wis. , and Rep. Mark Pocan , D- Wis. , has been vitally important in getting a small company like ours in front of big customers like the Army," he said.

The PNL neutron radiography platform is the first system capable of bringing neutron radiography out of an R&D environment and into a production setting, similar to industrial X-ray systems.  This technology has the potential to greatly improve the safety and effectiveness of defense and aerospace components such as munitions, aircraft components, and composite materials.  The Army has also funded development of the PNL neutron generator technology for other applications, including the detection of improvised explosive devices.

Source: Phoenix Nuclear Labs
Date: Oct 6, 2014