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Nonproliferation and National Security Department

Radiation Detector and Nonproliferation R&D Group

A major element in nonproliferation, arms control verification, nuclear materials safeguards and homeland security is the ability to detect, identify and measure nuclear, radioactive and chemical materials. BNL has a significant and world-class capability in radiation detection including the design and fabrication of advanced detector systems for scientific R&D and nonproliferation applications that has evolved over more than six decades.

To support nonproliferation, arms control, safeguards and homeland security, BNL has focused on advanced radiation detector systems that offer room temperature operation with high energy resolution for gamma-ray detectors, imaging and direction indicating capabilities for both gamma-ray and neutron detectors, and efficient and low-power ASICs for signal processing. Recent research into exploiting the advantages of multiple coincidence counting systems for application to arms control verification has shown to be successful and promising. In parallel with work on semiconductor detector materials, the group is expanding its expertise in scintillator detectors.

A by-product of the semiconductor gamma ray detector work has been in improved passive detection methods for cancer detection and related medical uses. Work is also beginning to develop advanced chemical material detectors that have application in homeland security, forensic analysis, and remediation efforts following a natural disaster or terrorist incident. Specifically, new detector development under DOE, DHS, DOD and other funding has resulted in:

  • Directional Neutron Imaging Systems for both fast and thermal neutrons for standoff long-range detection, medium distances for treaty item counting and close interrogation of suspect objects.
  • Neutron detectors for arms control verification and disarmament applications that achieve verification objectives without divulging classified technical details.
  • High resolution room temperature gamma-ray spectrometers that utilize several semiconductor materials including cadmium-zinc telluride (CZT), CdMnTe, InI, among other crystals. BNL capabilities in this area begin with raw chemicals to grow crystals followed by crystal characterization, detector design, device fabrication and testing of operating spectrometers.
  • Complete optimized low power ASICs for signal processing and detector biasing.
  • Breakthrough understanding of detector crystals growth techniques that minimize structural defects and allow growth of large volume defect-free crystals through rigorous characterization and testing using UV and IR Beam lines at the BNL National Synchrotron Light Source.

BNL is unique in its ability to develop and fabricate semiconductor detector crystals and has entered into Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with industrial partners to further advance and commercialize detector technology.

Photo of Detector R&D