Archive: Oct 2021

All About Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Methods and Neutron Radiography

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Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) is a premier manufacturer of californium-252 (Cf-252), an element capable of releasing 170 million neutrons per minute. This makes Cf-252 well-suited for use in neutron-based scanning and analysis processes, such as neutron radiography. 

Neutron radiography (NR) is a non-destructive testing (NDT) method, meaning it is used to safely analyze the properties and/or structures of a material without causing damage to the sample. The following article provides an overview of non-destructive testing methods, including discussing the unique aspects of neutron radiography and how Cf-252 is integrated with these types of testing methods.

An Overview of Non-Destructive Testing (NDT)

As indicated above, the term “non-destructive testing”—also described as non-destructive examination (NDE) and non-destructive inspection (NDI)—refers to analysis processes that do not permanently alter the tested material. NDT methods are used for a variety of purposes, including evaluating a material’s composition and probing a component, assembly, or system for defects and damage. Their key advantage: minimized risks of degrading or destroying sensitive or critical materials. In the next section, we will provide specific usage examples of NDTs within the oil & gas and military & defense industries.

What Is Neutron Radiography?

Aerospace Turbine Blade

(Aerospace Turbine Blade)

Neutron radiography is an imaging method that relies on low-energy neutrons to analyze samples. The testing equipment emits a beam of neutrons that penetrates the sample and interacts with the nuclei of its atoms. Compared to x-rays and gamma rays, neutron radiation interacts more strongly with lighter elements (e.g., hydrogen) rather than denser elements. As a result, it is ideal for analyzing samples with thicker outer layers. For example, it can be used to inspect critical aerospace components such as energy fuses and turbine blades. Other applications include detecting moisture in organic samples and inspecting encapsulated archaeological samples. 

This process allows industry professionals to obtain a better understanding of hard-to-image samples and subjects. However, there is one key drawback to using neutron radiography: it requires a strong and steady neutron-emitting source to power the imaging device. 

As a powerful neutron emitting source, californium-252 is an effective solution to this problem. It is often used for portable isotopic neutron spectroscopy (PINS) and prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA), both of which are neutron-based, non-destructive testing methods. PINS is an analysis process used by military personnel, homeland security, and customs and border protection agents to detect explosives, hazardous chemicals, and dangerous compounds within a suspected container. PGNAA is an analysis employed by professionals in the coal and cement, mining, and oil and gas industries to determine the elemental composition of the material within the targeted extraction site. 

In summary, some of the industries that most commonly employ non-destructive testing methods include:

  • Aerospace
  • Energy
  • Military 
  • Oil and gas
  • Railroad

Californium-252 Neutron Sources for Neutron Radiography Operations

As a non-destructive testing method, neutron radiography is a great choice for analyzing a wide range of sensitive samples and subjects. Californium-252 provides the neutron-emitting capabilities needed to power these analysis processes. If you’re seeking the right Cf-252 source supplier, we at FTC are here to help. 

At Frontier Technology Corporation, we’ve supplied top tier neutron sources for over 30 years. Our custom californium-252 sources are fabricated to accommodate the needs of various industries and industrial applications. We also provide Type A certified shipping containers for neutron sources (note that we do not provide these containers for gamma-ray sources) and ship to over 200 countries. 

For additional information about californium-252, check out the following resources:

To learn more about non-destructive testing methods such as neutron radiography or our products and services, reach out to us today.

Why Are NIST Standards Important for Neutron Sources?

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At Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC), we are dedicated to providing safe and reliable californium-252 (Cf-252) neutron sources to customers around the world. For this reason, all of our neutron sources are NIST traceable. The following article discusses what NIST standards are and why they are important when searching for a neutron source supplier.

What Is NIST?

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that establishes and maintains measurement and calibration standards for industrial equipment and systems. Its primary purpose is developing and encouraging the use of measurement standards and technologies to improve product and process quality across a variety of industries.

Products that are considered NIST traceable are characterized by the following: 

  • They are measured and calibrated by a certified manufacturer or laboratory. 
  • They meet and can be traced back through an unbroken chain of measurement to NIST-maintained standards.
  • They come with comprehensive documentation about their calibration processes and procedures that clearly states any calibration uncertainties, all of which should be public and non-proprietary. 

Why Is NIST Certification Important for Neutron Sources?

As indicated above, NIST standards focus on ensuring products meet established standards. Consistency is especially important for products that can have severe consequences when made or manufactured improperly. For example, Cf-252 neutron sources can spontaneously emit up to 170 million neutrons per minute. As such, it is essential to ensure their containment vessels are designed and manufactured correctly to avoid accidental or excessive neutron exposure. 

By partnering with a neutron supplier who upholds NIST standards, customers benefit in several ways, including with regard to the following: 

  • Accuracy. NIST-compliant products give end-users the piece of mind that the unit is calibrated correctly. As a result, NIST-compliant neutron sources are more likely to provide predictable and repeatable results in applications such as prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA). 
  • Productivity. NIST-compliant neutron sources are calibrated based on NIST standards, so end-users are less likely to encounter equipment errors due to poor measurements that can halt or hinder operations. In addition, they can rely on the measurements provided by their supplier, which reduces the amount of time they will need to spend verifying and calibrating the source in-house. 
  • Safety. Having accurate measurements of a neutron source’s output is critical to establishing the proper containment structures and protocols. With NIST-compliant sources, users can be assured they have sufficient safety measures in place for the protection of their employees. 
  • Liability. By making it easier to implement the proper safety measures within a facility, NIST-compliant neutron sources help reduce the potential for accidents among staff and injuries on the job, thereby reducing a facility’s overall liability. 

NIST Traceable Neutron Sources at Frontier Technology Corporation

At Frontier Technology Corporation, we have served as one of the world’s leading suppliers of californium-252 neutron sources for over 30 years. Our commitment to providing the highest quality products is why we ensure each of our Cf-252 sources are NIST traceable. 

We maintain detailed and up-to-date certification records, all of which we are happy to provide to customers upon request. Our neutron source calibration operations are based on data directly from the NIST neutron source calibration facility, which offers calibration services for neutron sources with emission rates from 5 x 105 to 1010 s-1.

To learn more about NIST standards or our californium-252 neutron sources, reach out to us today.

All About Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA): What It Is & How it Works

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At Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC), we are a leading supplier of californium-252 (Cf-252) neutron sources. Californium-252 is renowned in the nuclear, oil & petrochemical, military & defense, and research industries for its very strong neutron-emitting properties, and it is commonly used in nuclear reactors and materials scanning and analysis equipment. Neutron activation analysis (NAA) is a key analytical application of Cf-252. In this blog, we provide an overview of neutron activation analysis, outlining its process steps, variations, and advantages. 

What Is Neutron Activation Analysis?

Neutron activation analysis is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of material samples. It relies on the neutrons emitted by a neutron source (e.g., Cf-252) to irradiate the sample. The flood of neutrons forces the individual elements within the sample to form into radioactive isotopes, which emit specific radioactive particles at a specific rate as they stabilize. As the radioactive emissions and decay rates for every element are well-documented, this makes it possible to detect and identify the sample’s elemental makeup.

NAA can be categorized into two classifications: instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) and radiochemical neutron activation analysis (RNAA). Instrumental neutron activation analysis is conducted directly on the irradiated material samples using high-resolution gamma-ray measurement equipment. Radiochemical neutron activation analysis requires the chemical separation of irradiated samples before they are analyzed to eliminate the risk of sample contamination and/or better target the desired element. Given the additional step required for RNAA, INAA is more commonly performed due to its lower time and labor costs. 

There are several other methods available for determining the elemental composition of a material. However, due to its high accuracy, NAA is often used to verify or validate the results from other analysis operations. 

Types of Neutron Activation Analysis

As we mentioned previously, NAA operations can be classified as instrumental neutron activation analysis or radiochemical neutron activation analysis depending on the analysis techniques and technologies employed. They can also be divided into prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA) and delayed gamma neutron activation analysis (DGNAA) based on whether the measurement stage occurs during or after the irradiation process. 

At FTC, one of our core product offerings is neutron sources for prompt gamma neutron activation analysis applications. PGNAA is an analysis technique that measures the radioactive emissions output by the sample during the irradiation stage. As it is typically applied towards elemental samples with fast decay rates (i.e., minutes or seconds), weak emissions, stable isotopes, and high neutron capture cross-sections, its operations are characterized by short irradiation times and decay periods.

prompt gamma neutron activation analysis process

In contrast to PGNAA, delayed gamma neutron activation analysis (DGNAA) measures the decay of elements after irradiation by neutrons. The delayed measurement stage improves the accuracy of measurement results for elements with longer decay periods (i.e., hours, days, weeks, or longer)

Advantages of Neutron Activation Analysis

Compared to traditional material analysis methods, neutron activation analysis offers a number of advantages, such as:

  • Non-destructive. There is no risk of damage for samples subjected to NAA, which is ideal for analysis applications involving delicate or rare materials (e.g., archeological or anthropological findings)
  • Broad versatility and high sensitivity. NAA can be used to identify a broad range of elements, even those in minute concentrations in a small sample. 
  • Fast processing time. The analysis technique can detect and measure all of the elements within a sample simultaneously. 

Neutron Activation Analysis at Frontier Technology Corporation

Neutron activation analysis serves as a reliable method of accurately measuring the elemental composition of materials. As such, it is often used in research facilities (e.g., medical labs) and industrial worksites (e.g., oil and gas drilling sites) to test samples for the presence of desirable and undesirable compounds. 

For more information about NAA, turn to the experts at FTC. 

At Frontier Technology Corporation, we provide high-quality neutron sources suitable for use in PGNAA operations. To learn more about the neutron activation analysis process and how Cf-252 serves as an ideal neutron source, contact us today.