Neutron Imaging Applications

Internal Flaws and residue in Precision Cast Parts

Neutron Imaging Application
Neutron Imaging Applications

Commercially, some of the largest users of neutron imaging facilities are manufacturers of aerospace components, namely fabricators of turbine blades.  The turbine blades that are inspected are those that are formed around ceramic cores, which are later etched to remove the ceramic, leaving empty channels for active cooling.  These parts are those in the hot section of jet engines, both military and commercial, and must survive in environments often above their melting temperature.  Any blockage of the airways caused by residual ceramic can result in localized hot-spots and jeopardize the integrity of the critical part.  Locating ceramic blockages is difficult with X-ray due to high density metal outer shell and low density of the ceramic residue.  Neutron imaging provides a clear image of the internal structures and any residual material left behind from the manufacturing process, ensuring that safe and effective parts go into every airplane engine.

Defects in low density and energetic materials

Thousands of energetic devices are manufactured every year and are used for highly-critical applications including:

  • Separation of the canopy from an aircraft in the event of a falling military plane and the subsequent expulsion of the pilot from the vehicle
  • Separation of rocket motor stages during space vehicle launch
  • Frangible joint separation to deploy payloads into space such as satellites. 

Many of these energetic devices are also directionally formed.  For this reason, small separations, gaps, bubbles, voids, cracks, and fill levels are viewed using neutron imaging to ensure proper construction of such devices.  This is again an example where low-density, hydrogenous material is encapsulated inside high density shells where neutron imaging outperforms X-ray inspection.

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Loading Uniformity in Munitions


The thick outer-shell of large munitions make them difficult to x-ray to test for defects.  Phoenix has worked with the US Army since 2012 to develop a neutron imaging system to detect bubbles, cracks and fill uniformity in munitions.  This crucial quality control step ensures that our soldiers are working with safe, effective munitions.

In addition to imaging, Phoenix is working with the US Army to develop a neutron based IED detection system. 

Other Applications

  • Bonding flaws in adhesives
  • Composite material inspection
  • Weld inspection
  • Presence/position of liquid inside dense metal or enclosure
  • Internal structure in additive manufactured components
  • Evidence of corrosion inside metal pipelines
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