Beyond its obvious use for radiation monitoring, low-energy (thermal) neutron detection finds applications in road paving, hydrocarbon prospecting, hydrology, agronomy and planetary exploration.All known techniques are based on amplification of exothermic neutron absorption reactions with particular isotopes, especially helium-3. We have invented compact, low-voltage/power detectors based on optical scintillation of noble gases induced by energetic fragments of neutron absorption by boron-10. The primary scintillations occur in the ultraviolet (UV) and far-UV spectral regions, and wavelength-shifting materials are used to transform them into light that can be detected by silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs). SiPMs' light footprint facilitates cellular networks of diverse compact directors for momentum and energy resolution of neutron fields. We have built a thumb-size submersible detector and used it for in-situ neutron dosimetry in a water phantom at a proton therapy facility.
Emerging quantum materials are becoming the building blocks for quantum devices and they are enabling new advances from spintronics to topological insulators. Their functionality typically comes from their inner magnetic field structure. Neutrons are a particularly good probe to characterize such features. The control of neutron orbital angular momentum and the spin-orbit interaction enables new characterizing techniques and increased sensitivity towards specific material properties. Here we review the preparation and characterization methods of structured neutron waves.