Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Environmental Engineering and Earth Science


Timothy A. DeVol

Committee Member

Zane W. Bell

Committee Member

Lindsay Shuller-Nickles


The Cherenkov effect in optically clear media of varying indices of refraction and composition was investigated for quantification of fast neutrons. The ultimate application of the proposed detection system is criticality monitoring. The optically clear medium, composed of select target nuclei, was coupled to a photomultiplier tube. Neutron reaction products of the target nuclei contained within the optical medium emit beta particles and gamma rays that produce Cherenkov photons within the medium which can be detected. Assessed media include quartz (SiO2), sapphire (Al2O3), spinel (MgAl2O4), and zinc sulfide (ZnS), which were irradiated with un-moderated 252Cf. Monte Carlo N-Particle (MCNP) code simulations were conducted to quantify the neutron flux incident on the media. High resolution gamma-ray spectroscopic measurements of the samples were conducted to verify the MCNP estimate. The threshold reactions of interest were 28Si (n, p) 28Al, 27Al (n, p) 27Mg, 24Mg(n, p)24Na, and 64Zn(n, p)64Cu which have neutron reaction cross sections in the 1 to 10 MeV range on the order of 0.1 barn. The detection system offers a unique way to measure a criticality event; it can count in place, making retrieval by emergency personnel unnecessary.