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Radiation Detector and Nonproliferation R&D Group

Technologies are needed in nonproliferation, arms control verification, nuclear materials safeguards and homeland security to detect, locate, identify and measure nuclear, radioactive and chemical materials. BNL has 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 sensitive, low-power Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) for signal processing. Recent research exploiting the advantages of high-speed gamma-neutron coincidence counting systems for application to arms control verification has shown promising results. In parallel with work on semiconductor detector materials, the group is expanding its expertise to include scintillator detectors.

Specifically, new detector development for the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security and Defense and other sponsors has resulted in:

  • Neutron imaging systems for both fast and thermal neutrons for long-range standoff detection, medium distance imaging for treaty item counting and close-up measurements of diagnostic signatures.
  • High resolution room temperature gamma-ray spectrometers that utilize several semiconductor materials including cadmium-zinc telluride (CZT), CdMnTe, CdZnTeSe, among other crystals. BNL capabilities in this area begin with mixing chemical components in powdered form and melting them in sealed ampoules, followed by a slow process of cooling to grow large crystals. These steps are followed by crystal characterization, detector design, device fabrication, electronics development 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 II.

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

A by-product of the semiconductor gamma-ray detector work for national security has been an improved passive detection method for cancer detection and related medical uses. This has led to a new grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Photo of Detector R&D