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Rev Sci Instrum. 2007 Dec;78(12):123504. doi: 10.1063/1.2823973.

Neutron production from feedback controlled thermal cycling of a pyroelectric crystal.

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  • 1Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94550, USA.


The LLNL Crystal Driven Neutron Source is operational and has produced record ion currents of approximately 10 nA and neutron output of 1.9(+/-0.3)x10(5) per thermal cycle using a crystal heating rate of 0.2 degrees C/s from 10 to 110 degrees C. A 3 cm diameter by 1 cm thick LiTaO(3) crystal with a socket secured field emitter tip is thermally cycled with feedback control for ionization and acceleration of deuterons onto a deuterated target to produce D-D fusion neutrons. The entire crystal and temperature system is mounted on a bellows which allows movement of the crystal along the beam axis and is completely contained on a single small vacuum flange. The modular crystal assembly permitted experimental flexibility. Operationally, flashover breakdowns along the side of the crystal and poor emitter tip characteristics can limit the neutron source. The experimental neutron results extend earlier published work by increasing the ion current and pulse length significantly to achieve a factor-of-two higher neutron output per thermal cycle. These findings are reviewed along with details of the instrument.

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