A neutron beam can destroy electronics and that would be useful in warfare. The U.S. Defense Strategic Defense Initiative put into development the technology of a neutral particle beam to be used as a weapon in outer space. Neutral beam accelerator technology was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. According to report, the Pentagon wants a space-based directed energy weapon that would destroy enemy missiles shortly after takeoff. The weapon, called a neutral particle beam, would be tested from orbit in 2023.The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) wants a total of $380 million through the 2023 fiscal year to develop the directed energy weapon.
In July, 1989, the program put a neutral-particle beam into orbit as part of a project called the Beam Experiment Aboard a Rocket, which analysts described as “a major success for the NPB program.” The tests showed that the weapon could be ruggedized for space launch and operation and that the beam was sufficiently narrow to hit a target.
“The neutral particle beam is a game-changing space-based directed-energy capability for strategic and regional missile defense. MDA will design, develop and conduct a feasibility demonstration of a first stage accelerator subsystem,” according to the Fiscal Year 2020 Research Development Test and Evaluation department-wide project justification for the Missile Defense Agency.
The Pentagon planned neutral particle beam spending of $34 million in the next fiscal year and up to $380 million during the next four years. The funding would be used to conduct detailed systems engineering of the technology. The idea is to use neutral particles to bombard incoming targets with enough energy to disrupt, incapacitate or kill the threat, according to the FY 2020 project justification
Neutral particle beam weapons work by accelerating particles without an electric charge—particularly neutrons—to speeds close to the speed of light and directing them against a target. Like lasers, neutral-particle beams focus beams of energy that travel in straight lines, unaffected by electromagnetic fields. The accelerated neutrons knock protons out of the nuclei of particles in their target, generating heat that would damage the target.
At even higher power levels, the neutron beam generator could also disable electronics. High-energy neutrons, it turns out, do nasty things to materials like the silicon used in computer chips or the gallium used in radars. It’s rather like a neutron bomb, except you can aim it at one target instead of blasting everything indiscriminately.
The Defense Department tested a particle beam weapon in 1989: the Beam Experiments Aboard Rocket (BEAR) project. But little has been done since then. The BEAR had a large accelerator and power supply, making it too heavy to launch into orbit. As part of the Beam Experiments Aboard Rocket (BEAR) project, a prototype hydrogen beam weapon was launched from White Sands Missile Range in July 1989 and successfully deployed into Low Earth Orbit. It was operated successfully in space and after reentry was recovered intact.
Russia already tests weapons based on new physical principles. For example, the Russian neutron gun, developed by the All-Russian Research Institute of Automation named after N.L. Dukhov, which was mounted on Curiosity rover under the agreement between NASA and Roscosmos, continues to improve. The proton generator is a lot more powerful than a laser: only one single impulse will be enough to destroy a nuclear reactor or a nuclear warhead.
Particle beams can be more effective than lasers, which only burn the surface of their targets. Particle beams of sufficient power can penetrate beyond the surface of an enemy missile, igniting its fuel supply, melting its mechanical components and frying its electronics. Particle beams are also capable of bypassing laser-deflection measures like brightly polished, mirror-like surfaces.
Particle beams could be used to destroy ballistic missiles in the so-called “boost phase”—shooting them down seconds after launch, while they are still accelerating and before they release their warheads. During that stage—which only lasts about five minutes—the missiles are moving relatively slowly and are producing a massive heat signature that makes them easier to spot and track.
Particle accelerators are a well-developed technology used in scientific research for decades. They use electromagnetic fields to accelerate and direct charged particles along a predetermined path, and electrostatic “lenses” to focus these streams for collisions. The cathode ray tube in many twentieth-century televisions and computer monitors is a very simple type of particle accelerator.
More powerful versions include synchrotrons and cyclotrons used in nuclear research. A particle-beam weapon is a weaponized version of this technology. It accelerates charged particles (in most cases electrons, positrons, protons, or ionized atoms, but very advanced versions can accelerate other particles such as mercury nuclei) to near-light speed and then shoots them at a target. These particles have tremendous kinetic energy which they impart to matter in the target’s surface, inducing near-instantaneous and catastrophic superheating.
Charged particle beams diverge rapidly due to mutual repulsion, so neutral particle beams are more commonly proposed. A neutral-particle-beam weapon ionizes atoms by either stripping an electron off of each atom, or by allowing each atom to capture an extra electron. The charged particles are then accelerated, and neutralized again by adding or removing electrons afterwards..
Cyclotron particle accelerators, linear particle accelerators, and Synchrotron particle accelerators can accelerate positively charged hydrogen ions until their velocity approaches the speed of light, and each individual ion has a kinetic energy range of 100 MeV to 1000 MeV or more. Then the resulting high energy protons can capture electrons from electron emitter electrodes, and be thus electrically neutralized. This creates an electrically neutral beam of high energy hydrogen atoms, that can proceed in a straight line at near the speed of light to smash into its target and damage it.
The pulsed particle beam emitted by such a weapon may contain 1 gigajoule of kinetic energy or more. The speed of a beam approaching that of light (299,792,458 m/s in a vacuum) in combination with the energy created by the weapon would negate any realistic means of defending a target against the beam. Target hardening through shielding or materials selection would be impractical or ineffective, especially if the beam could be maintained at full power and precisely focused on the target.
Traditional neutron generators shoot off neutrons indiscriminately in all directions, the same way a light bulb emits light. That means the neutrons spread out rapidly, in fact exponentially (specifically, divide strength at the source by the square of the distance). Very soon, there are too few of them hitting any particular target to trigger enough gamma radiation to detect.
Physicist William Dent has invented neutron beam generator technology and briefed its potential to the Army and industry here. Dent’s electron beam generator, however, shoots out all its electrons along the same path, like a laser beam. As a result, the number of neutrons hitting the target stays high even at a distance. Just how far depends on the power you put in and the quality of your aiming system.
Conventional sources are radionucleides such as 252Cf. However, these isotopes do not lend themselves to pulsed neutron applications and present many safety issues. These sources are highly radioactive and toxic and would be a perfect ingredient in a dirty bomb. Accelerator based neutron sources have many advantages to address this problem. They rely on accelerating deuterium ions into deuteriated targets where a fusion reaction produces neutrons.
Accelerator based neutron generators have been developed, but they tend to be large, expensive, and unreliable. These tube-based sources are commercially available but cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and are extremely fragile not lending themselves to under sea oil field exploration.
Researchers are now developing micro-fabricated neutron source would replace the toxic califorinium, would be appreciably less expensive, more durable, and small enough to be placed under sea submarine drones. They would also lend themselves better towards covert elicit nuclear material as their smaller size lend them towards concealment.
Dr. Wilson and his team of researchers, operating in conjunction with Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana, have developed device capable of being turned on and operated in pulsed neutron mode for the safe and reliable production of neutrons. “Our MEMS neutron gun uses an inexpensive ceramic injection micro-molding and metallizing paste process for the batch fabrication of many neutron guns with standard industrial fabrication processes.”
Accelerator based Neutron generators
Neutron generators are neutron source devices which contain compact linear accelerators and that produce neutrons by fusing isotopes of hydrogen together. The fusion reactions take place in these devices by accelerating either deuterium, tritium, or a mixture of these two isotopes into a metal hydride target which also contains deuterium, tritium or a mixture of these isotopes.
Fusion of deuterium atoms (D + D) results in the formation of a He-3 ion and a neutron with a kinetic energy of approximately 2.5 MeV. Fusion of a deuterium and a tritium atom (D + T) results in the formation of a He-4 ion and a neutron with a kinetic energy of approximately 14.1 MeV. Neutron generators have applications in medicine, security, and materials analysis. The DT reaction is used more than the DD reaction because the yield of the DT reaction is 50–100 times higher than that of the DD reaction.
In comparison with radionuclide neutron sources, neutron tubes can produce much higher neutron fluxes and monochromatic neutron energy spectrums can be obtained. The neutron production rate can also be controlled
The central part of a neutron generator is the particle accelerator itself, sometimes called a neutron tube. Neutron tubes have several components including an ion source, ion optic elements, and a beam target; all of these are enclosed within a vacuum tight enclosure.
High voltage insulation between the ion optical elements of the tube is provided by glass and/or ceramic insulators. The neutron tube is, in turn, enclosed in a metal housing, the accelerator head, which is filled with a dielectric medium to insulate the high voltage elements of the tube from the operating area.
The accelerator and ion source high voltages are provided by external power supplies. The control console allows the operator to adjust the operating parameters of the neutron tube. The power supplies and control equipment are normally located within 10–30 feet of the accelerator head in laboratory instruments, but may be several kilometers away in well logging instruments.
Neutron Gun by American Strategic technologies
Neutron generators operate by first ionizing deuterium gas (2H) with a penning trap and accelerating these charged ions into a deuteriated or tritiated (3H) metal hydride target to produce neutrons with energy 2.5 MeV or 14.1 MeV . Our neutron gun is hermetically packaged using alumina ceramics which are inexpensive, can be cast into micro-structures, and are ideal for high voltage packaging .
An injection mold for the ceramic micro-casting is micro-milled in teflon. A nano-composite alumina ceramic (Al2O3) mixture is then poured, cured, and released from the teflon mold producing the top and bottom substrates. A Ag and organic binder paste is painted onto the ceramic surfaces and fired at 9500C to activate the ceramic surface for bonding. Feed-through holes are milled in the top ceramic substrate to allow for electrical connections to the penning trap and target. Finally, the top and bottom ceramic substrate are solder bonded along metallized surfaces in a vacuum to hermetically seal the neutron generator.
Tensile strength tests show that the ceramic/metal package provides the durability required for a mobile neutron gun that can be used on site. Characteristic pulses were detected by operating the neutron gun under vacuum with the penning trap biased at 1800Vdc and the target biased at -20KVdc. Neutron scintillator coupled with a photomultiplier tube allowed for the detection of these pulses