OSE Seminar by Dr. Markus P. Hehlen on Detecting Neutrons with Scintillating Composites

Departmental News

Dr. Michael J. Abere

Posted: March 19, 2024

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2024

Time:  12:45 PM - 1:45 PM MST

Location: PAIS, Room 2540 and Zoom

FREE Pizza and Sodas


Abstract – Neutron detectors play a crucial role in fundamental science, nuclear security and safeguards, and civil applications. Traditionally, He-3 gas proportional counters are the gold standard for thermal neutron detection. While they offer excellent efficiency, neutron/gamma discrimination, and stability, the scarcity of He-3 has prompted searches for alternative technologies. This seminar will present an innovative neutron detector design based on a scintillating composite consisting of Li-6 enriched glass scintillator particles dispersed in an organic matrix. I will take you on an exciting and eventful journey starting with the incoming fast neutron and ending with its detection in the digital domain. We will look at the detector architecture, the construction and characterization of a prototype detector, several field tests, and possible applications of this technology. While the detection mechanism involves an optical process, the talk will highlight the multi-disciplinary nature that is inherent to such integrated devices. 


Bio – Markus received his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Bern, Switzerland in 1994 on upconversion luminescence in rare-earth-doped materials. He then conducted postdoctoral research at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on optical amplifier materials and optical bistability. In 1998, he joined the Silicon-Valley startup Gemfire, where he developed upconversion phosphors for flat-panel displays and fiber-optic amplifiers for optical telecommunications applications. In 2003, Markus rejoined LANL as a staff member where he since worked at the LANSCE neutron scattering center, in Chemistry division, in the Materials Science & Technology division, and – currently – in the Intelligence & Space Division. His interests include the research and development of materials for solid-state optical refrigeration, the development of novel radiation-detection materials and devices, and the fundamental properties of rare-earth-doped materials. Markus currently leads the LANL Agile Space portfolio, which includes several CubeSat and sub-orbital flight-testing missions for science and national security sponsors. Markus has published nearly 100 peer-reviewed papers, 12 patents, and has given over 80 conference presentations. He is an active student and staff mentor, and he is a Fellow of Optica.