Hexagonal boron nitride thin film thermal neutron detectors with high energy resolution of the reaction products
Hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) is highly promising for solid-state thermal neutron detector applications due to its many outstanding physical properties, especially its very large thermal neutron capture cross-section ( 3840 barns for 10B), which is several orders of magnitude larger than those of most other isotopes. The focus of the present work is to carry out studies on h-BN thin film and detector properties to lay the foundation for the development of a direct-conversion solid-state thermal neutron detector with high sensitivity. The measured carrier mobility-lifetime (μτ) product of h-BN thin films grown on sapphire substrates is 2.83×10-7 cm2/V for electrons and holes, which is comparable to the value of about 10-7 cm2/V for GaN thin films grown on sapphire. Detectors based on h-BN thin films were fabricated and the nuclear reaction product pulse height spectra were measured. Under a bias of 20 V, very narrow individual peaks corresponding to the reaction product energies of α and Li particles as well as the sum peaks have been clearly resolved in the pulse height spectrum for the first time by a B-based direct-conversion semiconductor neutron detector. Our results indicate that h-BN thin film detectors possess unique advantages including small size, low weight, portability, low voltage operation and high energy resolution of specific reaction products.