New Technology Could Help Thwart Nuclear Terrorism

Attacks involving nuclear devices or materials are among the terrorism scenarios that raise the most concern. For that reason, technology that can effectively detect smuggled radioactive materials is considered vital to U.S. security.

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are developing ways to enhance the radiation-detection devices used at ports, border crossings, airports and elsewhere. They want to create technologies taht will inmake detectors isn the field more effective, reliable and cost-efficient. The project is co-sponsored by the Domestic Nuclear Defense Office of the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation.

"U.S. security personnel have to be on guard against two types of nuclear attack ­ true nuclear bombs, and devices that seek to harm people by dispersing radioactive material," said Bernd Kahn, a researcher who is principal investigator on the project. "Both of these threats can be successfully detected by the right technology."

The research team, led by co-principal investigator Brent Wagner, is utlizing novel materials and nanotechnology techniques to produce improved radiation detection. The researchers have developed the Nano-photonic Composite Scintillation Detector, a prototype that combines rare-earth elements and other materials at the nanoscale for improved sensitivity, accuracy and robustness.

"We're optimistic that we've identified a productive methodology for creating a material that could be effective in the field," Wagner said.
"We¹re continuing to work on issues involving purity, uniformity and scaling, with the aim of producing a material that can be successfully tested and deployed."

The team presented their research in April at the SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing Conference in Baltimore.


 

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