Phoenix to Establish Second Neutron Imaging Facility in California
Phoenix, LLC has announced plans to construct a second neutron imaging center near the aerospace, defense and tech hub of the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California to address the regional demand for commercially available neutron radiography services. This announcement follows the success of the company's first Phoenix Neutron Imaging Center, or PNIC, in Fitchburg, WI, which opened in the fall of 2019. PNIC is one of the only sites in the world to offer production-scale, high-quality neutron radiography (N-ray), a powerful industrial nondestructive testing method for quality assurance, R&D, and failure analysis. Unlike most other N-ray providers, Phoenix utilizes proprietary accelerator-based neutron generator technology as the source of neutrons for the N-ray processes.
The planned west-coast neutron imaging facility would provide a variety of key aerospace and defense nondestructive testing (NDT) services including thermal neutron radiography (film and digital), fast neutron radiography, thermal and fast neutron computed tomography (CT), X-ray imaging, X-ray CT, radiation effects testing, and neutron activation analysis. The facility is expected to further grow Phoenix's employee base, with future potential to expand beyond a dedicated NDT service center into a regional manufacturing and engineering hub that will attract top talent from the California and West Coast university system to support Phoenix's growing company charter.
The facility plans to support the growing US space and defense sector by providing critical inspection capabilities to energetic device manufacturers such as Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company (PacSci EMC). Energetic devices are crucial for aircraft, spacecraft and satellites, acting as the catalysts of ejection, payload separation, and explosive signal transfer systems, and so the ability to reliably and nondestructively inspect them using neutron imaging is paramount.
"PacSci EMC is committed to the highest levels of safety and quality in all our products. We use nondestructive inspection techniques such as neutron imaging to ensure our products perform exactly as designed. We're pleased that Phoenix has chosen the Bay Area as a location for its next neutron imaging facility, as it fills a critical gap in the defense and aerospace nondestructive testing industrial base," says PacSci EMC President Greg Scaven.
"Placing a new Phoenix neutron imaging center on the West Coast would allow Phoenix to better provide new and existing clients in critical industries access to this important technology that helps ensure their products are free from potentially catastrophic defects, significantly improving the security of a critical defense supply chain," says Phoenix president Dr. Evan Sengbusch.
About Neutron Imaging
Neutron imaging, or N-ray, is a form of radiography similar to X-ray imaging except with neutron radiation, a form of penetrating radiation comprised of neutral particles, instead of X-radiation. Due to the unique properties of neutron radiation, N-ray is a powerful complementary industrial imaging tool that can often find details about a part's inner structure that X-ray on its own might overlook. For example, in internal structures of components with very dense outer shells surrounding lighter material, which X-rays typically have a difficulty capturing on film, can be far more easily examined with N-ray.
Neutron imaging is a critical nondestructive testing tool in key niches within the aerospace and defense manufacturing industries, such as the manufacture of energetic devices (ejection and payload separation mechanisms, explosive signal transfer systems, munitions, etc.) and jet engine turbine blades, for which it is the most reliable method of detecting certain potentially catastrophic flaws. For the past half century, these manufacturers have had to rely primarily on reactor facilities for their neutron imaging capabilities in order to perform necessary quality assurance on high-volume products with extremely low margins for error. Reactor facilities offering neutron imaging services, however, have been steadily decreasing in number over the past few decades, necessitating the need for new powerful neutron sources to mitigate and prevent future supply chain issues caused by reactor shutdowns and decommissions, temporary or otherwise.
Since 2012, Phoenix, LLC. has been designing and developing powerful, compact neutron generators for neutron imaging, radiation effects and survivability testing, and neutron activation analysis. Rather than producing neutron radiation through nuclear fission, which requires fissile material and produces heavy, long-lived radioactive byproducts, Phoenix uses particle accelerators to produce neutron radiation. Phoenix relies on this accelerator-driven method of neutron production to provide fast and thermal neutron imaging, matching reactor-driven neutron imaging facilities for image quality and throughput. Phoenix maintains an ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100 Rev D (2016) certified quality management system as well as NAS-410 certified nondestructive testing personnel.