DT Neutron Generators from Phoenix

Many forms of research and commercial testing and analysis, such as nondestructive materials evaluation and the production of radioisotopes, depend on ample sources of neutrons. Until now, only reactor facilities and large-scale spallation neutron sources were capable of providing the high neutron yield (total neutrons per second) required for such applications. However, Phoenix’s accelerator-based DT neutron generators, which create high yields of neutrons through the fusion of deuterium and tritium, are strong enough to match reactor facilities in throughput while delivering the same capabilities in a smaller, more manageable package.

Phoenix develops and builds the strongest compact DT neutron generators in the world, outmatching all other tube neutron sources and compact accelerator systems of similar or lesser size and form factor for neutron output. Our high flux neutron generator provides an ample neutron yield for a wide variety of research and industrial applications, including:

Unlike nuclear reactor facilities, the only other source of high neutron yields available for commercial purposes, Phoenix’s DT and DD neutron generators provide lower costs-per-neutron with simpler regulatory burdens and a far more compact form factor. Our DT system, Alectryon 300T, produces a high neutron yield ideal for industrial testing applications, roughly 100 times higher than the most powerful DD neutron generators.

Phoenix Neutron Imaging Center
ion beam

What Is a DT (Deuterium-Tritium) Neutron Generator?

A DT neutron generator, or deuterium-tritium neutron generator, creates neutron radiation by fusion reactions between deuterium and tritium. Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen which contains an extra neutron in its nucleus, while tritium is an isotope of hydrogen with two extra neutrons, making them heavier than elemental hydrogen and giving them unique physical properties in comparison.

When a deuterium atom and a tritium atom collide at the right energy, their nuclei fuse. The products of this reaction include the tritium atom created in the reaction and the leftover neutrons that no longer fit in the nucleus, which comprise a burst of neutron radiation. By continually supplying high-energy tritium and deuterium and facilitating fusion reactions, a DT neutron generator can create a steady and consistent output of neutrons.

Rather than relying on nuclear fission, which creates neutron radiation by splitting heavy elements such as highly enriched uranium into smaller, but still heavy elements such as barium and krypton, Phoenix’s neutron generators use compact particle accelerators to cause fusion reactions out of lighter, particles with byproducts that are less dangerous than fission byproducts.

In Phoenix’s DT neutron generators, an electrically driven particle accelerator creates a plasma beam comprised of high-energy, positively charged deuterium ions. This beam, which reaches an energy of up to 300 kV, collides with a target containing tritium. The deuterium ions fuse with the tritium atoms in the target, producing more hydrogen isotopes as well as excess neutrons.

While a typical neutron source might produce around 1 MeV neutrons, Phoenix’s fast neutron imaging systems produce beams made up of up to 16 MeV neutrons. The neutron radiation can be harnessed and its temperature adjusted by a custom moderator to fit various industrial needs.

DT neutron generators use a gaseous tritium target to produce fusion reactions. Phoenix’s unique open-tube system, unlike any other accelerator-based neutron generator system, allows the gas target to be easily replenished while the system is in operation, allowing for an essentially indefinite lifespan as long as the system is maintained.

Learn more about how Phoenix’s neutron generators work

Deuterium-Deuterium vs. Deuterium-Tritium

DT neutron generators are high-yield fusion neutron sources compared to DD (deuterium-deuterium) neutron generators. DT neutron generators also produce higher-energy neutrons, which can be useful for different industrial applications. At different energies, or temperatures, neutron radiation has slightly different properties and interacts with matter in different ways. A moderator fixed to the outside of the generator can be used to reduce the temperature of the neutrons produced if necessary.

While DT neutron generators have higher neutron output and energy than DD neutron generators, since tritium is a regulated material, there are more regulatory burdens in place regarding their development, installation, and use. In addition, DT generators require extra shielding compared to DD neutron generators due to the higher neutron energies, and special care is required to ensure that tritium cannot escape the generator and pose a health risk.

DT neutron generators are the ideal system to meet your needs for neutron radiation if you require a high neutron yield with a magnitude of 1013 neutrons per second, as even the heightened regulatory and safety burdens associated with DT neutron generators are more modest compared to reactor sources. However, the smaller possible form factors associated with a DD neutron generator and the minimized safety requirements make DD neutron generators great options as neutron sources for lower-flux applications.

Learn more about Phoenix’s DD high-yield neutron generators

Applications for DT Neutron Generators

Phoenix’s Alectryon, due to its versatility, is immensely useful for a wide range of industrial and research applications for neutrons, including fast and thermal neutron radiography, neutron irradiation for radiation survivability testing of devices, products, and equipment, neutron activation analysis, and medical radioisotope production. The Alectryon system has a small footprint relative to comparable neutron sources, even with the added equipment and shielding required for a DT system. It can be installed onsite to provide convenient access to neutrons for various applications without the need to ship out items to facilities with specialized neutron sources.

For applications such as neutron imaging, our DT neutron generators are capable of matching reactor neutron imaging facilities in both throughput and image quality, producing the highest possible quality of neutron images as defined by international standards.

In one of the important applications of this technology, Phoenix’s DT neutron generators form the cornerstone of SHINE Medical Technologies’ medical isotope production system. Using the high yield of neutrons from deuterium-tritium reactions, the SHINE system will be able to produce molybdenum-99, a critical radioisotope for lifesaving medical procedures, in mass quantities out of low-enriched uranium. In a recent joint test of the Phoenix and SHINE isotope production system, Phoenix’s DT neutron generator set a new world record for the strongest man-made, sustained fusion reaction in a steady-state system.

A Phoenix neutron generator being installed into a bunker at SHINE for testing purposes

Alectryon: Our DT Neutron Generator Specs

Alectryon is Phoenix’s most versatile neutron generator design. It can be configured to use either deuterium-deuterium reactions or deuterium-tritium reactions to produce neutrons, making the basic design incredibly versatile for providing either intermediate or high neutron yields. Alectryon is the highest-output gaseous target DD or DT neutron generator on the market.

The Alectryon neutron generator has demonstrated stable operation in the field for thousands of hours. The Phoenix Alectryon is offered as a complete package, inclusive of an integrated control system, all power supplies, radiation shielding, moderator (if required), etc. The neutron generator utilizes a gaseous target to maximize neutron yield and system lifetime, which is measured in years rather than the hours provided by the solid targets used in sealed-tube neutron generator systems.

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