Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) offers the design and fabrication of cold-pressed Antimony-Beryllium (SbBe) pellets for nuclear start-up rod assemblies in nuclear plants and fuel scanners in nuclear applications.

All pellets are produced per user-supplied specifications. FTC can accommodate prototype-to-production volume.

What Is Antimony-Beryllium (Sb-Be)?

Antimony is a lustrous semi-metallic chemical element with the atomic number 51 and symbol Sb. It is relatively rare and is typically found in nature in its sulfide form stibnite (Sb2S3). When in its pure form, antimony is either a brittle, hard metallic material or a non-metallic gray powder. The antimony element is not affected by alkalis or dilute acid, and does not conduct heat or electricity well. It can be alloyed with other metals to enhance their strength. 

Beryllium is a divalent chemical element with the atomic number 4 and symbol Be. It is a rare element and occurs in nature only when combined with other elements. When not combined with other elements, beryllium is gray, brittle, and strong, but lightweight. It can be found in a variety of beryl gemstones, including emerald, heliodor, and aquamarine.
antimony-beryllium pellets

When the elements are joined, antimony-beryllium (Sb-Be) acts as a secondary source of neutrons. Unlike primary neutron sources, such as californium-252, antimony-beryllium neutron sources don’t spontaneously emit neutrons. The antimony component of Sb-Be must be irradiated, which causes it to emit gamma rays. This in turn forces neutrons from the beryllium component, creating a secondary source of neutron emissions. Secondary sources are typically housed in source rod assemblies. Although they are initially non-radioactive, Sb-Be pellets require only one cycle of core irradiation to become an antimony-beryllium neutron source.

Applications of Antimony-Beryllium (Sb-Be)

Antimony-beryllium neutron sources have a wide range of uses in nuclear power arrays and elemental analysis applications. The most common applications that incorporate Sb-Be sources include:

Nuclear Startup Rods

Sb-Be neutron sources are sometimes incorporated into startup rods in nuclear reactors. Startup rods are placed in the core reactor with fuel rods to initiate and control nuclear fission. In addition to reactor shutdowns and startups, nuclear startup rods are also used for power control, axial offset, and emergency shutdowns.

Neutron Activation Analysis

Sb-Be neutron sources are used in neutron activation analysis (NAA), a process that uses neutron bombardment to determine the elemental composition of a range of materials. When bombarded with neutrons, elements create radioactive isotopes. The radioactive emissions from these isotopes are analyzed to determine the concentration of elements within the sample. NAA is particularly useful because it does not cause physical damage to the sample. In addition, NAA can be used to determine the level of activity in a radioactive material.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

Small footprint nuclear reactors, also known as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are currently in development for use in power generators, process heat applications, desalination operations, and other industrial applications. They are highly advanced nuclear reactors designed to produce clean nuclear power from tens to hundreds of megawatts. Similar to large scale nuclear reactors, SMRs will require a controlled initiator of nuclear fission, such as a startup rod.

Advantages of Antimony-Beryllium (Sb-Be) Pellets

Antimony-beryllium pellets offer unique advantages over other neutron sources because of their ability to absorb radiation. When placed in a reactor alongside neutron sources or in the core of a reactor, Sb-Be pellets absorb radiation and neutrons, allowing operators to quickly reduce the radiation in the reactor for repairs, maintenance, or removing and replacing fuel rods. When the rods are replaced in the core reactor, the Sb-Be pellets are still irradiated and can act as a neutron source to initiate fission and restart the reactor. In addition, Sb-Be pellets can be used to restart a reactor after it has been down and the neutron sources have decayed.

Choose Antimony-Beryllium (Sb-Be) Pellets From Frontier Technology Corporation

Frontier Technology Corporation has been the preferred supplier and manufacturer of Antimony-Beryllium pellets since 1984. All pellets are manufactured utilizing our advanced process and under our strict Quality Assurance program. The processes follow stringent industrial guidelines set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), U.S. Department of Transportation, and ISO 2919

With more than 30 years in the industry, Frontier Technology is dedicated to providing customers with superior quality, cost-effective neutron sources and TYPE-A shipping containers. To learn more about antimony-beryllium pellets or about our services and capabilities, reach out to us today or request a quote.