A neutron detector developed
for studies focused on life science, drug discovery, and materials technology
has been licensed by PartTec Ltd. The Indiana-based manufacturer of radiation
detection technologies is moving the technology developed at the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE)’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) toward the
The Neutron-Sensitive Anger
Camera allows researchers to study a wider variety of crystalline structures,
supporting studies in biology, earth science, geology, materials science, and
condensed matter physics.
“This ORNL detector
system, developed for DOE’s Spallation Neutron Source, can determine the time
and position of the neutrons captured, enabling extremely accurate neutron time-of-flight
measurements,” says Yacouba Diawara of the Instrument and Source Design
Division at ORNL.
The detector achieves very
high efficiency, high timing and position resolution, and low background noise
at a reduced cost—all characteristics that make it attractive for medical,
biological, and general scientific research.
“The detector is suited
for biological samples because the protein crystals scientists are interested
in are very small, about the size of a grain of sand,” says Richard Riedel
of the Instrument and Source Design Division at ORNL. “No other neutron
detectors are suited for viewing these complex proteins at a pulsed neutron
The ORNL research team
optimized an existing technology called the Anger Camera—named after its inventor,
Hal Oscar Anger—by improving the detector’s ability to view the atomic
structure of crystals, such as those composed of protein macromolecules.
Previous neutron detectors
struggled to resolve crystals smaller than 2 mm, but ORNL’s system can clearly
detect 1-mm and smaller crystals. This capability is important not only for
biological crystals but also for small crystals that are subject to extremely
high pressures using an instrument at SNS called the Spallation Neutron and
“It turns out there are
a number of proteins and enzymes that don’t form very large crystals,”
Riedel says. “The push in neutron science has been to design devices that
can detect smaller and smaller crystals—down to half a millimeter.”
PartTec CEO Herschel Workman
envisions this technology greatly impacting a variety of scientific fields. The
advances in biological research alone could affect the development of novel drugs
for many types of disease.
“We are pleased to
receive this opportunity to manufacture and market the Anger Camera, which will
help researchers expand current medical boundaries,” Workman says.
“Their work, in turn, will help those in need to find medical answers and
options previously unavailable to them.”
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory