Measurement of the Surface and Underground Fast Neutron Spectra with the UMD/NIST Fast Neutron Spectrometers

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link






The typical fast neutron detector falls into one of two categories, Bonner sphere spectrometers and liquid scintillator proton recoil detectors. These two detector types have traditionally been used to measure fast neutrons at the surface and in low background environments. The cosmogenic neutron spectrum and flux is an important parameter for a number of experimental efforts, including procurement of low background materials and the prediction of electronic device faults. Fast neutrons can also cause problems for underground low-background experiments, through material activation or signals that mimic rare events. Current detector technology is not sufficient to properly characterize these backgrounds.

To this end, the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology designed, developed, and deployed two Fast Neutron Spectrometers (FaNS) comprised of plastic scintillator and 3He proportional counters. The detectors are based upon capture-gated spectroscopy, a technique that demands a delayed coincidence between a neutron scatter and the resulting neutron capture after thermalization. This technique provides both particle identification and knowledge that the detected neutron fully thermalized. This improves background rejection capabilities and energy resolution.

Presented are the design, development, and deployment of FaNS-1 and FaNS-2. Both detectors were characterized using standard fields at NIST, including calibrated 252Cf neutron sources and two monoenergetic neutron generators. Measurements of the surface fast neutron spectrum and flux have been made with both detectors, which are compared with previous measurements by traditional detectors. Additionally, FaNS-1 was deployed at the Kimballton Underground Research Facility (KURF) in Ripplemead, VA. A measurement of the fast neutron spectrum and flux at KURF is presented as well. FaNS-2 is currently installed in a shallow underground laboratory where it is measuring the muon-induced neutron flux and spectrum.