Frontier Technology Corporation (FTC) is one of the world’s premier suppliers of californium-252 (Cf-252) neutron sources, a radioactive element used in applications ranging from nuclear power plant startup to material identification. We offer customized neutron sources for oil and gas, nuclear power, and military and defense, among other industries. Our specialties and services span the full lifecycle of californium-252, including its supply, shipping containers, transportation, handling, and fee-free depleted source disposal

To help you better understand our sources and what we do, we have compiled the following glossary to clarify the terms related to californium-252, neutron sources, and neutron radiation, including resources for further exploration into each term. 

Californium; Californium-252 (Cf-252)

Californium (Cf) is a synthetic element discovered in 1950 at the University of California Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley. It was initially created by bombarding the element curium with helium alpha particles. The resulting element is a soft, silvery-white metal that remains solid at temperatures up to 900°C. As a solely synthetic element that does not occur in nature, californium has undergone numerous experiments since the 1950s, resulting in 20 characterized isotopes. Located on the bottom row and grouped with other actinide elements, californium has the second-highest mass of all elements on the periodic table. 

Californium-252 is an extremely high neutron emitter that releases up to 170 million neutrons per minute, making it the most-used californium isotope. The spontaneous neutron emissions provided by Cf-252 make it a useful neutron source for many applications, including nuclear reactor startup, oil well logging, and material scanning and identification. Intense radioactivity makes Cf-252 very dangerous to the human body, and handling requires extreme caution.

Neutron Source

A neutron source is any material or device that emits neutrons at sufficient levels for detection by neutron detection equipment. Common neutron sources include radioisotopes such as californium-252, particle accelerators, and nuclear reactors, among others. Neutron sources see broad usage in numerous industries, including medicine, nuclear power, weapons manufacturing, material detection, and petroleum exploration. 

Neutron Shielding

Neutron shielding refers to equipment or material specifically designed and installed to prevent neutron radiation transmission from a source to the human body. Since neutron radiation is very hazardous, users must employ adequate protection. Highly concentrated hydrogen atoms have proven useful against neutron radiation, but ideal neutron shielding incorporates a combination of elements with high and low atomic numbers for optimal protection. Water-extended polyester (WEP) offers an effective solution for protective equipment, protective wall designs, and more because of its high water content.

Nuclear Start-Up Rods (Nuclear Reactor Rod Assemblies) 

Nuclear startup rods initiate the fission process in a fully-fueled nuclear assembly. Beyond standard reactor startup and shutdown, startup rods also help initiate emergency shutdowns, establish reactor and power control, and maintain axial offset control in nuclear power plants. Although the isotopes americium-241, plutonium-238, polonium-210, and radium-226 are often used in combination with beryllium to start the nuclear reaction, californium-252 has become the preferred isotope for its ability to emit neutrons spontaneously to initiate fission.

Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy (PINS)

Portable Isotopic Neutron Spectroscopy (PINS) is a technology developed in 1992 for the non-destructive detection and identification of hazardous materials in containers such as IEDs, bombs, and missiles. PINS technology facilitates the detection of a wide range of explosives and dangerous chemical agents. PINS systems have successfully detected tens of thousands of harmful chemical agents, preventing harm to military and law enforcement personnel worldwide.

Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA)

Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA) uses neutrons to determine the elemental makeup and quantity of a given sample. Neutrons are fired at the sample, which can range in size from small to very large, and the elements in the sample react by producing different levels of gamma radiation. PGNAA technology offers real-time measurement of the gamma rays to determine the sample composition. Oil, gas, and concrete production often use this technology to detect material deposits for extraction operations.

Radioactivity (AKA Radioactive Decay)

Radioactivity, also known as radioactive decay, is the active disintegration of an unstable atomic nucleus. The energy released (radiated) by the decaying nucleus can be measured to determine the radioactivity of a given element or elements in a sample. The energy released by radioactive decay gets emitted as alpha, beta, or gamma rays. 

Radiation Dose (AKA Radioactive Dose)

A radiation dose, or radioactive dose, is the amount of ionizing radiation absorbed by a material exposed to radiation from a source. This amount varies depending on the material being affected and the radioactive strength of the source. It is important to note that radioactivity and radiation dose are different things. Whereas radioactivity refers to the source’s strength, a radiation dose refers specifically to the amount of radiation absorbed by a material (or body) exposed to that radiation.

Type-A Radioactive Shipping Containers

Type-A radioactive shipping containers are used to transport all radioactive materials to and from nuclear manufacturing facilities and end-users. They can be custom-fabricated to meet the dimensional needs and shielding capacity necessary to safely and adequately protect neutron sources. Please note that Frontier Technology’s Type-A radioactive containers are not rated for use with gamma sources, as they do not contain the lead necessary for safe gamma source transportation.

High Quality Cf-252 Neutron Sources at Frontier Technology Corporation

Frontier Technology Corporation is a dedicated provider of californium-252 neutron sources for many industries, including oil and gas, military and defense, and nuclear power. With more than 30 years of experience manufacturing reliable neutron sources, we have the expertise necessary to ensure that you receive the right neutron source for your needs. 

We specialize in safe neutron shielding, dependable shipping containers, and a fee-free neutron source return program that allows you to dispose of your depleted neutron sources (a note that only FTC-manufactured sources are accepted) after receiving your replacement from FTC. We believe that our responsibility extends beyond the fabrication and delivery of neutron sources, which is why we will take care of your source disposal free of charge — our customers only pay for the return shipping. 

FTC is committed to providing our customers with materials and products of the highest quality. To this end, we maintain a host of industry certifications, including IAEA Certification, RAM Certification, and Better Business Bureau Accreditation. Our knowledge of californium-252 neutron sources is second to none, and we maintain a comprehensive resource library to keep our customers informed. If you would like to explore more about Cf-252 neutron sources, visit the following resources:


To learn more about FTC’s californium-252 neutron sources or our comprehensive selection of services and capabilities, reach out to us today.