Proportional Technologies, Inc. (PTI) has been selected as a 2016 R&D 100 finalist, marking the second year in a row that PTI has been selected as a finalist for this highly competitive award. Their application titled “Effective Neutron Detectors to Combat Nuclear Threats” describes the development of a new high performing neutron radiation detection line called the n-Defender series. Research and development funding for this section of PTI’s R&D was provided by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. This line of products is specifically designed for security monitoring applications with an emphasis on reliability, accuracy, and ease of use.

PTI’s new family of products relies on boron-coated straw (BCS) technology and provides twice the sensitivity of standard detectors, increased flexibility in detector design, and uses a widely-available neutron detection material: Boron-10. Helium-3 is the most common neutron-sensitive isotope used as the active material in neutron detectors. Unlike Boron-10, it is not available on earth as a natural resource; Helium-3 only exists because it was needed during the arms race as a component of nuclear weapons.  The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US and later attacks around the world lead to the deployment of thousands of large neutron detectors worldwide, screening for nuclear weapons or weapon-grade raw materials. As detector deployment increased, the 3He gas supply sharply dropped.

Besides the relative abundance of Boron-10, PTI’s commitment to increasingly automated manufacturing methods have allowed this small business to make a big impact on neutron detection. At the beginning of this year, PTI moved from their old location in the Texas Medical Center to a new facility in central southwest Houston that is big enough to house all of PTI’s machining and manufacturing equipment under one roof. The new facility also opened up significant floor space to devote to new manufacturing equipment, including a new boron coating system that can produce material for BCS at 3-times the speed of the previous system. Other new additions include a fully automated straw welding and cutting station, high-throughput CNC manufacturing machines, and newly developed automated stations for laser welding and detector wiring.

Despite these changes, Dr. Jeff Lacy, founder and president of PTI, remains focused on two things: quality craftsmanship and ongoing efforts to better the technology. Since his founding of the company in 1991, Lacy and his team are especially dedicated to driving the culture of innovation and creativity, both within PTI and in the field of neutron detection.

The 2016 R&D 100 Conference is hosted at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at Oxon Hill, Maryland (Washington, DC) November 2-4, 2016. The winner of the R&D 100 award will be announced at a black tie awards dinner on November 3rd.

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