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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Neutron tomography developments and applications


Neutron radiography has been in use as a nondestructive testing technique for the past fifty years. The neutrons’ unique ability to image certain elements and isotopes that are either completely undetectable or poorly detected by other NDI methods makes neutron radiography an important tool for the NDI community. Neutron radiography like other imaging techniques takes a number of different forms (i.e., film, radioscopic, transfer methods, tomography, etc.)

This paper will describe the neutron tomography system developed at the University of California, Davis McClellan Nuclear Radiation Center (UC Davis/MNRC), and the applications for both research and commercial uses.

The neutron radiography system at the UC Davis/MNRC has been under development for four years. The initial system was developed to find very low concentrations of hydrogen (i.e., < 200 ppm). In order to achieve these low detection levels, it was necessary to perform both pre- and post-processing of the tomographs.

The pre-processing steps include corrections for spatial resolution and random noise effects. Images are corrected for systematic noise errors and beam hardening. From these data the attenuation coefficient is calculated.

The post-processing steps include alignment of the collected images, determining the center of mass, and, finally, using the filtered back-projection routine from the Donner Algorithms Library to obtain the final images.

Since its initial development, the tomography system has been used very successfully to find low levels of hydrogen in a metal matrix. Further uses of the system have been to verify the exact placement, in three dimensions, of “O-rings” in large metal valve bodies, and to map the location and extent of veins in porous and high-density rocks of various different kinds.

These examples show that neutron tomography is becoming a needed inspection technique for the 21st century.

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