2014 R&D 100 Winner
KSU SMART Lab Lithium Foil Neutron DetectorsAs the need to monitor radioactive materials grows, so does the market for detectors capable of quickly and reliably finding them. However, this demand may be thwarted by a shortage of raw material and rising prices. Traditional neutron detectors, for example, rely on helium gas, which has suffered from interruptions in supply in recent years. Fortunately, lithium foil technology has progressed rapidly thanks to the battery industry, and this metal is reasonably priced.

Scientists at the Kansas State Univ.’s SMART Laboratory and Saint-Gobain Crystals have capitalized on the availability of 6Li (lithium) to produce Lithium Foil Neutron Detectors that offers equivalent or better detection efficiency compared to present-day helium (3He) detectors. The detector design, called a multi-wire proportional counter (MWPC), utilizes the suspension of multiple thin 6Li foils between anode banks to create a high-efficiency, large-area, low-cost, gas-filled neutron detector. They have similar gamma-ray rejection, comparable compactness, and presently have up to an order of magnitude lower cost, which should appeal to users who require them in nuclear security, scientific experiments or petroleum searches.

Neutron detectors

Kansas State Univ. SMART Laboratory
Saint-Gobain Crystal
Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)

Development Team

Kansas State Univ. SMART Laboratory's Lithium Foil Neutron Detectors development team (l-r): Niklas Hinson, Steven Bellinger, Douglas McGregory, Kyle Nelson and Benjamin Montag.









Saint Gobain Crystals' Lithium Foil Neutron Detectors development team (l-r): Mike Kusner and Mike Mayhugh.









 Walter McNeil  Hank Zhu
Walter McNeil, formerly at Kansas State Univ. SMART Laboratory Hank Zhu, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)














The Lithium Foil Neutron Detectors Development Team
Douglas S. McGregor, Principal Developer, SMART Laboratory
Steven L. Bellinger, SMART Laboratory
Niklas J. Hinson, SMART Laboratory
Michael R. Kusner, Saint Gobain Crystals
Michael R. Mayhugh, Saint Gobain Crystals
Walter McNeil, SMART Laboratory
Benjamin W. Montag, SMART Laboratory
Kyle A. Nelson, SMART Laboratory
Hank Zhu, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)