A new technology developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Honeywell is providing needed atmospheric environment information to the aerospace industry. The device, called TinMan, has quantified the number of thermal neutrons – particles created by natural solar radiation — giving the aerospace industry a standard by which it can evaluate its semiconductor parts.

Unlike protons and electrons, neutrons aren’t charged and can pass through the atmosphere and solid objects like the metal hull of a plane. When these neutrons strike something like a microprocessor, the energy it deposits in the system can result in a single effect event, which may impact component reliability.

TinMan is a small device, a little thicker than a laptop, and is the only thermal neutron detector designed for use in an airplane. It constantly measures changes in thermal neutron intensity, which can fluctuate with aircraft altitude and latitude.