Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny Device Can Detect Hidden Nuclear Weapons, Materials

Date:
June 28, 2002
Source:
Argonne National Laboratory
Summary:
A small, portable detector for finding concealed nuclear weapons and materials has been developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. When fully developed, the device could assist international inspectors charged with preventing smuggling and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and materials.

A small, portable detector for finding concealed nuclear weapons and materials has been developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

When fully developed, the device could assist international inspectors charged with preventing smuggling and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and materials.

The heart of the Argonne device is a small wafer of gallium arsenide (GaAs), a semiconducting material similar to silicon. When coated with boron or lithium, GaAs can detect neutrons, such as those emitted by the fissile materials that fuel nuclear weapons. Patents are pending on several detectors and their components.

The wafers are small, require less than 50 volts of power and operate at room temperature. They also can withstand relatively high radiation fields and do not degrade over time.

"The working portion of the wafer is about the diameter of a collar button, but thinner," said Raymond Klann, who leads the group from Argonne's Technology Development Division that developed the wafer and detector. "It is fairly straightforward to make full-sized detector systems the size of a deck of cards, or even smaller. Something that small can be used covertly, if necessary, by weapons inspectors to monitor nuclear facilities."

The key to detection, he said, is to coat the gallium-arsenide with something like boron or lithium. When neutrons strike the coating, they produce a cascade of charged particles that is easy to detect.

The wafers are made by inexpensive, conventional microchip-processing techniques, Klann said. They can be tailor-made for specific applications by varying the type and thickness of the coating.

Compared to other neutron detectors, Klann's have a number of advantages.

One common type of neutron detector is based on a tube of gas, which is ionized when neutrons pass through the tube. These detectors are larger in size and require more power than the GaAs detector.

Another common neutron detector uses silicon semiconductors. Compared to the GaAs wafer, silicon-based detectors use more power, require cooling and degrade more quickly when exposed to radiation.

Klann's team also found that detection is improved by etching the wafer with cylindrical holes, like the dimples on a golf ball.

"We're testing various coating materials and thicknesses," he said, "as well as various combinations of hole sizes and spacings to find the best configurations for specific applications."

Klann's group has built and successfully demonstrated prototype detectors. Argonne is now looking for commercial partners interested in developing the detectors for the commercial marketplace.

Other possible uses for GaAs-based detectors include high-vacuum space applications or any other work requiring neutron detection.

Development of the wafer and detector was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science and the Spallation Neutron Source project.

The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory conducts basic and applied scientific research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy physics to climatology and biotechnology. Since 1990, Argonne has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies and other organizations to help advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for the future. Argonne is operated by the University of Chicago as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratory system.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Argonne National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Argonne National Laboratory. "Tiny Device Can Detect Hidden Nuclear Weapons, Materials." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 June 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020627010016.htm>.
Argonne National Laboratory. (2002, June 28). Tiny Device Can Detect Hidden Nuclear Weapons, Materials. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020627010016.htm
Argonne National Laboratory. "Tiny Device Can Detect Hidden Nuclear Weapons, Materials." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020627010016.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) Argentina doesn't only have Lionel Messi the footballer, it has now also acquired "Mesi" the drone system which monitors undeclared mansions, swimming pools and soy fields to curb tax evasion in the country. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

CERN Celebrates 60 Years of Science

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 29, 2014) CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, celebrates 60 years of bringing nations together through science. As Joanna Partridge reports from inside the famous science centre it's also planning to turn the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator back on after an upgrade. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins