Phase-contrast neutron imaging compared with wave propagation and McStas simulations

Estrid Buhl Naver*, Mads Bertelsen, Maja Østergaard, Domenico Battaglia, Peter Willendrup, Pavel Trtik, Søren Schmidt, Henrik Birkedal, Luise Theil Kuhn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Propagation-based phase contrast, for example in the form of edge enhancement contrast, is well established within X-ray imaging but is not widely used in neutron imaging. This technique can help increase the contrast of low-attenuation samples but may confuse quantitative absorption measurements. Therefore, it is important to understand the experimental parameters that cause and amplify or dampen this effect in order to optimize future experiments properly. Two simulation approaches have been investigated, a wave-based simulation and a particle-based simulation conducted in McStas [Willendrup & Lefmann (2020). J. Neutron Res. 22, 1-16], and they are compared with experimental data. The experiment was done on a sample of metal foils with weakly and strongly neutron absorbing layers, which were measured while varying the rotation angle and propagation distance from the sample. The experimental data show multiple signals: attenuation, phase contrast and reflection. The wave model reproduces the sample attenuation and the phase peaks but it does not reproduce the behavior of these peaks as a function of rotation angle. The McStas simulation agrees better with the experimental data, as it reproduces attenuation, phase peaks and reflection, as well as the change in these signals as a function of rotation angle and distance. This suggests that the McStas simulation approach, where the particle description of the neutron facilitates the incorporation of multiple effects, is the most convenient way of modeling edge enhancement in neutron imaging.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Crystallography
Pages (from-to)707-713
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024


  • McStas
  • neutron imaging
  • phase-contrast imaging
  • refraction
  • simulations


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