US Navy invents a Helium-3 Counter to Prevent Nuclear Catastrophes

Nuclear threat is looming over the World, as strategic nuclear-powered weapons are vulnerable to the life-threatening usage by terrorist networks. Many countries have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to prohibit the destructive use of nuclear weapons.

Recently in Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington D.C., the President of United States, Mr. Obama, said that the Islamic State (IS) is the worst threat for the humanity if they acquire the nuclear assets.

Image Credit: Andrew The Prophet
Image Credit: Andrew The Prophet

Security agencies and defence organizations are gearing up for restraining this nuclear threat. US Navy has devised a robust 3Helium gas counter that can carry out the non-proliferation verification activities to investigate the unlawful and malevolent acquisition of nuclear materials, as the threats of terrorists are predominant these days.

Large-area, 3Helium gas counters are critically important tools for detecting and monitoring the movement of special nuclear materials. While the demand for 3Helium gas counters continues to increase, the availability of the most critical component, 3Helium, is diminishing. 3Helium is a rare isotope of helium. The reason for the scarcity of 3Helium on the Earth is that this isotope comes through the stronger solar waves from our Sun but the Earth’s magnetic field restricts their movement towards the Earth. However, moon is abundantly covered with stocks of 3Helium. Therefore, scientists are even looking to mine Moon to recover 3Helium. This seems to be inspired by the Superman series (Man of Steel), where Krypton planet was abundant with unique and powerful Krypton isotopes.

Image Credit: Space and Astronomy

Conventional 3Helium gas counters consume excessive 3He gas. The 3Helium gas counter invented by the US Navy is way more efficient than the conventional gas counters.


The fundamental modification in the latest 3Helium gas counter is the substitution of cylindrical tubes of the conventional 3He gas counter with a single rectangular cross-section, which closely binds with the rectangular polyethylene slabs leaving no space for air gaps. Hence, the neutron stimulation with the polyethylene slabs becomes exponentially high as comparable to the conventional 3He gas counter. In addition, the latest 3Helium gas proportional counter is provisioned with another high-density gas, i.e. Xenon, along with the 3He, which effectively reduces the consumption of Helium gas.

Patent Information
Publication number: US 20160216399
Patent Title: 3Helium Gas Proportional Counter
Publication date: 28 Jul 2016
Filing date: 8 Jan 2016
Inventors: Brian L. Justus; Alan L. Huston; Alan L. Justus;
Original Assignee: The Government of the United States of America, as represented by the Secretary of the Navy