Radiation Detection Device in Development

Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 12:07 PM gHale

Crystals can detect nuclear threats, radioactive material or chemical bombs more accurately and affordably.

Further development of the crystals could lead to improved detector devices for screening cargo containers at ports, airports and border crossings. It would detect trace amounts of radioactive or chemical material – similar to a CT scan or PET scan detecting a tumor in the human body – and lead to better medical diagnostics. Researchers at Wake Forest University and Fisk University have partnered to develop the technology.

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A while ago, researchers at Fisk found strontium iodide crystals doped with europium are able to detect and analyze radiation better than most other detection materials. Wake Forest researchers just showed the unexpectedly crucial role of specific parameters – electron and hole mobilities – needed to predict the best energy resolution of a given detector crystal.

Right now one thing holding back on development is expense because of the large quantities of the crystalline material ultimately needed for widely deployed screening devices.

However, strontium iodide already performs much better than the most affordable detectors currently used, and the scientists are optimistic with the right calculations and adjustments, they could grow and produce crystals of the needed quality and size much more affordably.

“Unexpected radiation situations are a fact of our modern world,” said Dr. Richard Williams, Professor of Physics at Wake Forest. “By improving radiation detection and diagnostics, our research will benefit medical advancement as well as international security.”

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