Detecting potential illicit neutron sources (fissile material) is important for homeland security and protecting the public by preventing radioactive or nuclear terrorism attacks. Radiation detection devices are also needed to safeguard transportation systems (ports and borders) and manage industrial nuclear materials. The standard approach to locating neutron sources is to use a neutron detector to look for count rate increases above background. Given the number of legitimate neutron sources used in industry, deploying standard neutron detectors results in a large number of alarms requiring more intrusive and time consuming inspections.


LLNL scientists have developed a simple neutron detection technique that can discriminate fissile material from non-fissile material. A low cost digital data acquisition unit collects data at high rates and processes large volumes of data in real-time. This technique functions in a passive mode much like a standard portal monitor. There are options for converting the technique to an active interrogation scheme.


  • High sensitivity
  • Real-time data analysis
  • Simple output for first responder use
Potential Applications

Government and commercial uses for this technology include mobile or stationary monitoring and characterization of the type of neutron sources inside packages. Some examples of uses include inspection of packed cargo containers and trucks.

Development Status

U.S. Patent 7,755,015

U.S. Patent 8,384,004.

Reference Number