Dynamic neutron and hard x-ray imaging with Ximea's CMOS cameras¶
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My small company NeutronOptics designs and assembles neutron and x-ray imaging cameras. Neutron imaging is complementary to x-ray imaging, but much more penetrating, revealing details of hydrogenous material with light elements, while x-rays are absorbed more by heavier elements. The classic example is neutron imaging of a flower inside a lead case.
More practically, neutrons can image the interior of fossilised rock to understand the fine bone structure in the ear of a dinosaur, reveal the construction details of ancient pottery, or the layers of paint underneath an old masterpiece, find cracks in large mechanical components etc. The penetrating power and the complementary absorption of neutrons make them an unique tool for non-destructive imaging, and increasingly for security control of anything from passenger baggage to cargo containers.
Of course we can't image neutrons with ordinary cameras. We must first capture the neutrons with a scintillating film, which then emits light that we see as a shadow of the neutron image. Until now we have used very sensitive monochrome CCD cameras, but Ximea's new CMOS cameras such as the MQ042MG-CM offer us a new opportunity. Because they have large sensitive pixels, like our CCD cameras, they are suitable for neutron imaging. And they have the added advantage of high frame rate with low readout noise. This means that we can collect real-time images with high dynamic range of moderately fast processes. For example of two phase flow, such as bubbles in the water pipe of an engine or a reactor, or even lubricants and fuel inside an operational machine.
Actually the same camera with a different scintillator can be used for hard x-ray imaging. Hard x-rays are very energetic, so they are also more penetrating, and portable pulsed hard x-ray generators are used in the field for monitoring welds and cracks in oil pipelines for example. With a fast camera such as Ximea's MQ042MG-CM we could construct a versatile dynamic imager for both neutrons and hard x-rays.
We already supply neutron and x-ray cameras to many international clients for static 2D and 3D tomographic imaging. Even big laboratories, who are capable of building their own, find it cheaper and faster to purchase ours. But we are particularly proud to have also supplied cameras to laboratories in the developing world, who could not otherwise afford such equipment. Ximea's new CMOS cameras will allow us to extend our neutron imaging to the 4th dimension. Time.