FITCHBURG, Wis., Dec. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Phoenix, LLC., a nuclear technology company founded in Madison, Wisconsin in 2005, has announced that it has now demonstrated the capability to take ASTM Category I neutron radiographs at its new accelerator-based industrial radiography facility, the Phoenix Neutron Imaging Center (PNIC), which opened in October of this year. ASTM Category I images are the highest image quality level specified by ASTM E545, the gold standard for defining the quality of neutron radiographs.
Neutron imaging, also known as N-ray, is a form of radiographic inspection similar to X-ray imaging that provides unique information and valuable insight into an object's internal structure that other non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques cannot. Neutron imaging is a vital inspection technique for high-reliability products such as the turbine blades found in aircraft jet engines, energetic devices such as aircraft ejection mechanisms, spacecraft payload fairing separation mechanisms, and munitions.
Since the discovery of neutron imaging as an industrial NDT technique in the 1950s, only nuclear reactors could provide the magnitude of neutron radiation to create high-quality images in reasonable time periods. However, after decades of increasing regulation and costs, scores of these reactors have closed. There are now only a few nuclear reactors available for commercial imaging, drastically limiting the availability of neutron inspection in the NDT community.
The high neutron output of the PNIC system allows Phoenix to exceed the annual throughput of reactor facilities with an equivalent level of image quality. This technical achievement represents the culmination of years of work by Phoenix's engineers to mitigate industry concerns on the availability of neutron radiography.
"The ability to generate ultra-high-quality neutron images with a small, relatively low-cost, accelerator-based neutron imaging system is truly an industry game-changer," said Dr. Evan Sengbusch, president of Phoenix. "This achievement is analogous to the early use of compact x-ray generators in medical diagnostics over a century ago. It is a first step in making neutron imaging as ubiquitous as x-ray imaging is today."
Of the handful of reactors that remain, continued unplanned outages and no line of sight to the specialty fuel needed to refuel the reactors will likely cause further shutdowns in the near future which drives significant concern for users reliant on those facilities. Phoenix is now positioned to take on neutron imaging work put at risk by an aging nuclear reactor fleet and maintain the high quality and reliability levels required for a broad range of aerospace and defense components supplied to the government and commercial sectors.
Unlike a nuclear reactor, the Phoenix system can also be built anywhere, making it possible for high-volume users of neutron imaging to have dedicated neutron imaging capabilities in-house. Phoenix's goal is to not just shore up this fragile supply chain with a network of n-ray capable facilities but to make neutron radiography, a powerful yet underutilized tool for industrial nondestructive testing, more accessible and available to a broader user base.
The 10,000 square foot neutron imaging services facility that will provide neutron activation analysis, radiation effects testing, neutron (n-ray), and x-ray imaging. The company's 50,000 square foot corporate headquarters, which broke ground in November of this year, will also be located on the same site and will allow Phoenix to meet the increasing demand for accelerator systems and employ an estimated additional 50 full time, highly paid professionals over the next several years.
About Phoenix Phoenix's proprietary neutron generators, one of which recently broke a world record for the most neutrons produced in a sustained fusion reaction during a demonstration with sister company SHINE Medical Technologies, do not rely on the fission of fissile materials. Phoenix began developing its first neutron radiography system in 2012 under a Small Business Innovation and Research contract with the US Army. The Phoenix neutron radiography systems are designed to be installed at industrial facilities and incorporated directly into the quality control processes used to inspect products for defects which could not be detected with more widely-utilized NDT techniques. Other clients of Phoenix include major aircraft turbine blade casting houses and manufacturers of energetic devices. PNIC, which is set to begin taking on new clients in Q1 2020, represents a paradigm shift in the availability of neutron imaging by providing all of the benefits of reactor-driven neutron imaging facilities with fewer drawbacks, while also providing other services for NDT professionals such as industrial X-ray imaging and CT (computed tomography).