NSF Grant Supports Hope's Role in
Coalition to Build Neutron Detector
Posted October 5, 2001
HOLLAND -- The National Science Foundation has
awarded a grant to Hope College as part of a coalition of 10
colleges and universities building a highly efficient large-
area neutron detector, the Modular Neutron Array (MoNA).
Hope received $93,626 for its portion of the
project, which is based at Michigan State University and
should be completed by October of 2002. Hope's work is
guided by Dr. Paul DeYoung and Dr. Graham Peaslee, who co-
lead the college's "nuclear group": student-faculty
research in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry.
In addition to Hope and Michigan State University,
the institutions participating in the MoNA collaboration
are: Ball State University, Central Michigan University,
Concordia College at Moorhead, Florida State University,
Indiana University South Bend, Millikin University, Western
Michigan University and Westmont College. The project
totals approximately $1 million.
The MoNA detector will be a key instrument in the
study of rare isotopes at the National Superconducting
Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University.
Peaslee, who conducted post-doctoral work at Michigan State
University before joining the Hope faculty, noted that the
NSCL is the most advanced rare isotope user facility in the
nation. The laboratory is used by more than 500 scientists
from the United States and abroad.
A recently completed upgrade of the facility that
was funded by the National Science Foundation offers
unprecedented possibilities in the search and investigation
of very neutron rich nuclei. The study of such nuclei will
help scientists better understand how the basic elements of
the universe are synthesized inside of stars.
The MoNA detector will be made of a large number
of individual detector modules arranged in layers. Each of
the layers will be constructed and tested by one of the
undergraduate institutions in the collaboration. The layers
will then be brought to the NSCL, where they will be
assembled into the final MoNA detector configuration.
The MoNA project is involving a large number of
undergraduate students from the collaborating colleges and
universities and giving them the opportunity to take part in
cutting-edge research at the forefront of nuclear physics.
"It's a huge opportunity for us to have the
cyclotron only 90 minutes up the road," said Peaslee, who is
an associate professor of chemistry and
geological/environmental sciences. "Over the last seven
years we've done a lot with the national lab at MSU. This
project provides another strong research opportunity for our
The 144 individual two-meter long detector modules
in MoNA will be arranged in nine layers of 16 detectors
each, covering an area two meters wide by 1.6 meters high.
The individual detectors are horizontal blocks of plastic
scintillator fitted with photo-multiplier tubes on each end.
The detector is position-sensitive and features multi-hit
capability. The detection efficiency for single neutrons
between 50 MeV and 250 MeV is around 70 percent.
Compared to the present capabilities, the
instrument increases the detection efficiency by a factor of
seven for single-neutron events and a factor of 50 for two-
neutron events. The increase will allow the investigation
of very neutron-rich nuclei that can only be produced with
small intensities and therefore are out of reach with the
present neutron detection capability.