Researchers Develop Crystal Detectors to Determine National Security Threats

Researchers from the Fisk University and the Wake Forest University have jointly developed crystals, which could detect nuclear threats, chemical bombs and radioactive materials cost-effectively and precisely.

The research was funded by a $900,000 grant given by the Office of Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development of the National Nuclear Security Administration. The grant would support research activities conducted by both the universities with respect to radiation detection, which would eventually yield improved detector devices for the screening of cargo containers at border crossings, airports and at sea ports. They could detect small traces of chemical or radioactive materials in the same way that a PET or CT scan detects tumors in the human body.

According to Arnold Burger, who is the Vice Provost and a Professor of Physics in the Fisk University, the grant recognizes the Wake Forest and Fisk Universities’ excellence and leadership in the radiation detection research field. In the past, Fisk researchers and others in National laboratories had determined that strontium iodide crystals when doped with europium could analyze and detect radiation much better than other materials. Scientists from Wake Forest have shown that definite parameters such as hole and electron motilities play a critical significant role and are required to determine the detector crystal’s ideal energy resolution.

As huge amounts of crystalline material would be required for the screening devices, the high costs involved definitely poses a problem. But the scientists state that the superior performance of strontium iodide along with the right adjustments and computations could help grow crystals of required quality and size in an affordable way. Dr. Richard Williams, who is the Professor of Physics at Wake Forest, has stated that since unexpected and unforeseen radiation threats are a part and parcel of the modern world, this research on improved radiation detection and diagnostics would greatly benefit international security and medical advancement.



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