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Building 134
P.O. Box 5000
Upton, NY 11973-5000
phone 631 344-2345
fax 631 344-3368

managed for the U.S. Department of Energy
by Brookhaven Science Associates, a company
founded by Stony Brook University and Battelle

News Release

Number: 03-63f
Released: September 8, 2003
Contact: Peter A. Genzer, 631 344-3174 or Mona S. Rowe, 631 344-5056

This briefing describes research to be presented at the 226th meeting of the American Chemical Society, September 7-11, 2003, in New York City.

Brookhaven Researchers Develop Counterterror Technologies

NEW YORK, NY — Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory are developing counterterrorism technologies to help protect the United States from would-be terrorists wielding nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, toxic chemicals, or explosives.

“These sensor technologies give us the capability to discern and identify minute quantities of radioactive materials, and also detect chemical and biological agents and explosives,” said Ralph James, Brookhaven’s Associate Director for Energy, Environment, and National Security. “When deployed at the nation’s ports, bridges, tunnels, and transportation hubs, these sensors can help law enforcement agencies intercept dangerous materials before they are used in a terrorist attack.”

Current technologies under development include:

Cadmium-zinc-telluride sensors: These tiny sensors can detect gamma rays emitted by radionuclides of interest to terrorists, including cesium and cobalt. Unlike high-purity germanium detectors, which are expensive and must be kept chilled, these work at room temperature and are inexpensive.

Large-volume xenon-based detectors: These xenon-gas-filled detectors are another room-temperature device that can detect and identify radioisotopes with great sensitivity.

Thermal neutron camera: This highly sensitive helium-based imaging system uses a wire chamber and coded aperture to “see” fissionable radioactive materials like plutonium from a distance.

Mini-Raman LIDAR chemical sensor: This one-of-a-kind portable chemical sensor can locate and identify chemicals (like those used in nerve gas) in the air or deposited on surfaces from a safe distance, using laser scattering patterns to identify a substance’s distinct chemical signature.

Urban Shield: This initiative would integrate real-time data from a network of sensors distributed within a municipal area. This network would employ an array of meteorological instrumentation, satellite data, and detectors to identify and help track chemicals or radionuclides after a release, and provide crucial information to emergency responders.

James will discuss this work during the “Environmental Radioactivity and Low-Background Radioactivity Monitoring in Service to the Society” session on Sunday, September 7, 2003, at 9:35 a.m. in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, Room 1A15/1A16. This work is primarily funded by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Other briefings in this series include:
Researchers Develop Counterterror Technologies,
Nanoscale Model Catalyst Paves Way Toward Atomic-Level Understanding,
Reverse Reaction Helps Isolate Important Intermediate,
Designing a Better Catalyst for “Artificial Photosynthesis”
Using Ions to Probe Ionic Liquids, and
Coal-Eating Bacteria May Improve Methane Recovery.