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David L. Jacobson (Fed)

Dr. David L. Jacobson has been a team leader of neutron imaging since he designed and built the first neutron imaging facility at NIST in 2003. Dr. Jacobson led a major NIST effort including the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) and General Motors (GM) Fuel Cell Activities (FCA) to build the NIST Neutron Imaging Facility (NNIF) located at the BT-2 beam line of the NCNR. This facility was designed and optimized to allow researchers to image in situ with neutrons hydrogen polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The effort to design and build this facility included the neutron optical design of the instrument, detailed 3-D CFD Modeling of the release of hydrogen gas and hydrogen safety for fuel cell experiments and the design of a complete and safe hydrogen gas infrastructure for both fuel cell and storage experiments with fuel cell test stands for automotive research. This capability was reviewed in 2006 and received independent credit for the impact as providing to fuel cell developers from the National Academies report, which stated that: "The NIST effort ... is a considerable achievement and one of the most significant analytical advances in the membrane fuel cell realm in decades. The NIST facility offers the entire fuel cell community unique research opportunities that previously eluded them." (NAS Report: Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, pg. 65, DOI 10.17226/11406). Work at this facility resulted in more than 40 U.S. Patents by General Motors. Three researchers (Thomas Trabold, Jon Owejan, Jeffrey Gagliardo) from General Motors won the McCuen Award in 2007 for “Neutron Imaging Facility and Methods for Fuel Cell Water Visualization”. The McCuen award is the highest internal award at General Motors for Research.

Researchers from all over the world can obtain access to this facility by applying for beam time through the NCNR user program. User proposals are peer reviewed for merit and awarded time via a beam time allocation committee. The NNIF is a NIST Director Designated National User Facility, which allows user access for both non-proprietary and paid (cost recovery) proprietary access. As of 2020 the total number of peer reviewed experiments carried out at this facility exceeds 550.

Dr. Jacobson continues to run the NNIF in collaboration with his colleague Dr. Jacob LaManna. Dr. LaManna recently led a major upgrade to this facility that added in situ X-ray imaging. This allows for both neutron and X-ray tomography (NeXT) to be performed at the same time. This powerful multimodal technique allows researchers to create bi-variate histograms enabling phase segmentation of tomography data sets that was previously impossible. This effort was awarded a 2018 R&D 100 award and a 2020 Department of Commerce Silver Medal.

Dr. Jacobson was a design advisor to Dr. Daniel S. Hussey who led another major effort with the NCNR to build the NIST Cold Neutron Imaging Instrument (CNII). Dr. Jacobson continues to collaborate with Dr. Hussey to develop new cold neutron imaging techniques.

Dr. Jacobson also serves as a member of the steering committee for the Center for Research on Extreme Batteries (CREB) (). Along with Dr. LaManna, Dr. Jacobson is collaborating with CREB researchers to develop methods and materials to improve battery technology for the U.S. Army.

Dr. Jacobson has also written instrument automation and data acquisition programs in C, C++ and C# programming languages that are used by the Neutron Interferometry and Optics Facility, NNIF, CNNI and the NIST Neutron Physics Group. Dr. Jacobson also writes neutron imaging data analysis programs currently using Matlab.

Dr. Jacobson came to NIST in 1996 working on a National Research Council Fellowship working on phase contrast imaging with Neutron Interferometry. Previously Dr. Jacobson had worked on Neutron Interferometry at the Missouri University Research Reactor in Columbia, Missouri. As of 2020 Dr. Jacobson has given 57 talks and co-authored 189 peer reviewed publications.

Research Interests

  • Neutron and X-ray Tomography
  • Neutron Radiography
  • Neutron Interferometry
  • Neutron Phase Contrast Imaging
  • Hydrogen PEM Fuel Cells
  • Hydrogen Storage
  • PEM Electrolyzers
  • Batteries
  • Geology


  • 2020, Department of Commerce Silver Medal Award “For creating a revolutionary neutron imaging system for the nation solving age-old problems in concrete degradation and material science by real-time analysis”.
  • 2018, R&D 100 Award for the development of the NeXT – Neutron X-ray Tomography Facility.
  • 2009 Department of Commerce Gold Medal Award “For excellence, innovation and leadership in developing and implementing neutron imaging to support robust and efficient hydrogen fuel cells”.
  • 2006, Arthur S. Fleming Award.
  • 2006, NIST Bronze Medal Award “For contributions in developing an advanced neutron imaging facility for fuel cell research”.


Design of a neutron microscope based on Wolter mirrors

Daniel S. Hussey, B. Khaykovich, Jeremy C. Cook, David L. Jacobson, Jacob LaManna, Kiranmayee Kilaru, Brian Ramsey, M. V. Gubarev
The predominate geometry for a neutron imaging experiment is that of a pinhole camera. This is primarily due to the difficulty in focusing neutrons due to the
Created October 9, 2019, Updated June 15, 2021