Thin films can be seen as quasi-2D layers with a thickness within the nanometer to micrometer range. The trend to use them is steadily growing and they have a great impact as functional materials across a vast range of applications. This presentation touches on a vision of how thin films can revolutionize detector capability over the coming decade and beyond and shows how this vision is rooted in today’s results from ongoing interdisciplinary collaborative work.
The helium-3-crisis has forced the detector community to search for alternative neutron detection methods for neutron scattering facilities like the European Spallation Source (ESS), for societal applications such as radiation scanners at, e.g., airports, or for measuring production in an industrial environment.
A synergy between expertise areas within material science and neutron/radiation detection has developed and proven that detectors based on boron-10-enriched boron carbide thin films are a competitive alternative to helium-3 gas based detectors. By using materials theory, advanced diagnostics techniques, and industrial production processes, the thin films do not only match the requirements of excellent adhesion and high purity of the active detector material as well as for low production costs, but are also ready to be mass produced by vapor deposition methods to fulfill the needs of large scale facilities like the ESS. For this purpose, the ESS has set up a detector coatings workshop adjacent to the Linköping University premises where main development work is also carried out. Compared to helium-3, the new boron-10 detector technology promises superior resolution in time, energy, and space and has the potential to replace most helium-3 containing detectors at the ESS. On a 10-year timescale, the development and use of thin films will allow a miniaturization of detector technologies, leading to a broadening of the range of potential applications for neutron detectors.
This interdisciplinary set of people have the vision to further develop the thin solid films to be used as detection materials, to merge them with the latest detector technologies, and to realize a complete set of neutron detectors for the next generation of neutron science. So far, the focus has been on neutron scattering science, but the technology can equally well be used in societally broader applications where neutrons need to be captured and provide information to users, like in radiation scanners, oil well logging, industrial production environments or in radiation monitors. Besides this, the potential of thin films exists generally for all detector types, not just the mentioned neutron detectors. Through our interdisciplinary synergies, functional thin films deposited onto a variety of base-component materials have the potential to solve technical problems for many types of sensor applications within the coming decades.