How can an inexpensive NeutronOptics Camera compete with more expensive detectors?
All cameras can be supplied with either high efficiency x-ray or neutron scintillators.

General Information and FAQs

  • The camera sensitivity is proportional to the ratio of the CCD to scintillator areas.
  • The camera thickness depends on the smallest side of the scintillator window.
  • The compact camera weighs ~500g; the 100mm camera weighs ~1 Kg.
  • All cameras come with a 12v DC regulated supply to EU or US specs.
  • It is possible to use the camera in a vacuum if you drill a small hole in it.
      You will need vacuum connectors for the cables and a heat sink to dissipate ~3 watts.
  • Cameras use aluminium boxes and screws to reduce activation.
  • The CCD unit should be shielded from neutrons and x-rays.
  • The scintillator will eventually be destroyed if left permanently in the beam
      (replacement scintillators can be provided).
  • The light output will fall by 30% after an integrated flux of
      (more than 100 days in a constant neutron beam).
  • The CCD will also detect X-rays and gammas as isolated pixel flashes.
       If so, provide better radiation protection for the CCD
  • With long exposures (10+ seconds) a few bright noisy pixels will be seen, but these
       are eliminated with the imageJ "salt and pepper" filter or the optional Peltier cooler.

    The older Video Cameras

    The newer digital cameras are controlled by a computer, which is also needed for image display. A simple (amplified) USB cable up to 20m long is used. The older "video" cameras use a manual control box, and the following applies:
  • The video camera outputs PAL video, accepted by most frame grabbers.
  • The optional TFT display allows the image to be viewed without a computer.
  • The included PC-interface is a high speed USB-2 frame grabber.
  • With very long exposures (minutes) of the video CCD at maximum gain and gamma for very low fluxes (<103, a a diffuse noise patch may be seen in one corner of the image. This is low-level infra-red radiation from the amplifiers at the edge of the CCD. A solution is to subtract a "dark field" image obtained under the same conditions with the neutron beam off, or use the ImageJ Process/Subtract Background.
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    Testing without Neutrons or X-rays

    Test the camera first on your desk. If you expose with high gain and 10+ seconds exposure, even without a neutron or x-ray beam, you should see a few isolated bright pixels in the image. This is normal for such a highly sensitive CCD (you can apply a software filter to remove them). If however, nothing seems to work, the most likely reason is that you have a bad electrical connection! Check all the cables; in one case a user even had a thin plastic film stuck in one of the connections. Intermittant electrical problems may be due to a poor fit of the electrical plug to the camera. Do not hesitate to email if you have problems or comments, however trivial.

    Guarantee and Repairs

    NeutronOptics cameras are guaranteed for at least one year for the quality of components and workmanship, and under guarantee will be repaired cost free on return to the manufacturer. Repairs for accidental and operational damage, and repairs ouside the guarantee period, can also be undertaken for all cameras manufactured within the last 10 years. Before returning the camera for repair, please first confirm the return conditions and email me a copy of the shipping papers.

    If possible use the international registered postal service, rather than FedEx, UPS etc, and declare it as a "Camera Scientifique hors service, pour reparation" with nominal or no commercial value. Avoid using N-words. With FedEx, UPS etc NeutronOptics must pay ~22% taxes, VAT and customs charges on the total declared value including transport, if it is from outside Europe. There are no such taxes on shipping within the EU.

    Life Expectancy & Replacement of the CCD/scintillator

    After 2 years on an ILL instrument, the CCD developed additional white pixels. Like most electronic components, the camera module should be shielded, in particular from neutron and especially gamma-ray background. The standard video CCD unit can be replaced without opening the camera by using the supplied key to loosen the 3 small screws attaching it to the camera body.

    The neutron scintillator should last indefinitely unless exposed to strong beams for long periods. (Normally the camera will not be continuously exposed for long periods).

    Eventually, the camera body may be opened and the scintillator replaced (after the 12 month warranty period). Remove the 4/6 aluminium screws holding the face-plate to the camera body, and insert a very sharp blade under the plate, cutting around the complete circumference several times. (The smaller cameras are sealed with a tough rubberising compound; the large V5 cameras are not, but instead use tight-fitting push-on cover plates). Carefully pry open the top corners of the face-plate with a small flat screw-driver. Take care not to damage the exposed scintillator or front-surfaced mirror. Cut any glue spots holding the top corners of the scintillator plate, and slide it from under its B4C protection to replace it. When the camera is re-assembled, the scintillator is clamped by the B4C and mirror. Be sure to replace the mirror and the seal before re-assembling the camera. If you touch the lens you may need to re-focus it, and if you touch the mirror, clean it carefully with an optical quality cloth and cleaner.

    If you Break it...

    The f1.0 low-light lens is screwed to the CCD unit through the camera body. If the camera is dropped, you risk breaking the mirror and/or the CCD unit from the body. These can both be repaired by opening the camera and replacing the mirror and/or the lens, at a nominal cost plus parts and transport to/from NeutronOptics Grenoble. Be careful that the broken mirror and/or lens inside the camera does not scratch the scintillator, and that the CCD chip is protected. Cover the CCD unit aperture, and turning the camera on its back, stuff the now open hole that held the CCD unit with soft tissue to prevent broken pieces moving and scratching the scintillator during transport. You can remove the video CCD unit by loosening the 3 small screws at its base, but be sure to return the ring that these screws clamp if it has been broken from the camera body.

    Feedback Suggestions and Complaints

    It is difficult to foresee all of the applications and eventual problems that users may have. It is therefore important to send suggestions and/or complaints. We would be especially interested if you have found a new application, and if you can provide details or photos that might be used to help others. But first read the Examples and FAQ.