Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nuclear detector: New materials hold promise for better detection of nuclear weapons

Date:
September 13, 2011
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Scientists have developed new materials that can detect hard radiation, a very difficult thing to do. The method could lead to a handheld device for detecting nuclear weapons and materials, such as a "nuclear bomb in a suitcase" scenario. The materials perform as well as materials that have emerged from five decades of research and development.

Northwestern University scientists have developed new materials that can detect hard radiation, a very difficult thing to do. The method could lead to a handheld device for detecting nuclear weapons and materials, such as a "nuclear bomb in a suitcase" scenario.

"The terrorist attacks of 9/11 heightened interest in this area of security, but the problem remains a real challenge," said Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, who led the research. "We have designed promising semiconductor materials that, once optimized, could be a fast, effective and inexpensive method for detecting dangerous materials such as plutonium and uranium."

Kanatzidis is a Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He also holds a joint appointment at Argonne National Laboratory.

The Northwestern materials perform as well as materials that have emerged from five decades of research and development, Kanatzidis said.

To design an effective detector, Kanatzidis and his team turned to the heavy element part of the periodic table. The researchers developed a design concept to make new semiconductor materials of heavy elements in which most of the compound's electrons are bound up and not mobile. When gamma rays enter the compound, they excite the electrons, making them mobile and thus detectable. And, because every element has a particular spectrum, the signal identifies the detected material.

The method, called dimensional reduction, will be published in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

In most materials, gamma rays emitted by nuclear materials would just pass right through, making them undetectable. But dense and heavy materials, such as mercury, thallium, selenium and cesium, absorb the gamma rays very well.

The problem the researchers faced was that the heavy elements have a lot of mobile electrons. This means when the gamma rays hit the material and excite electrons the change is not detectable.

"It's like having a bucket of water and adding one drop -- the change is negligible," Kanatzidis explained. "We needed a heavy element material without a lot of electrons. This doesn't exist naturally so we had to design a new material."

Kanatzidis and his colleagues designed their semiconductor materials to be crystalline in structure, which immobilized their electrons.

The materials they developed and successfully demonstrated as effective gamma ray detectors are cesium-mercury-sulfide and cesium-mercury-selenide. Both semiconductors operate at room temperature, and the process is scaleable.

"Our materials are very promising and competitive," Kanatzidis said. "With further development, they should outperform existing hard radiation detector materials. They also might be useful in biomedicine, such as diagnostic imaging."

The work was a Northwestern team effort, involving three professors and their research groups. Kanatzidis made the materials; Bruce W. Wessels, the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, measured and evaluated the materials; and Arthur J. Freeman, a Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Physics and Astronomy in Weinberg, provided theoretical predictions of the materials' performance.

In addition to Kanatzidis, Wessels and Freeman, other authors include John Androulakis, Sebastian C. Peter, Hao Li, Christos D. Malliakas, John A. Peters, Zhifu Liu, Jung-Hwan Song and Hosub Jin.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. John Androulakis, Sebastian C. Peter, Hao Li, Christos D. Malliakas, John A. Peters, Zhifu Liu, Bruce W. Wessels, Jung-Hwan Song, Hosub Jin, Arthur J. Freeman, Mercouri G. Kanatzidis. Dimensional Reduction: A Design Tool for New Radiation Detection Materials. Advanced Materials, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/adma.201102450

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Nuclear detector: New materials hold promise for better detection of nuclear weapons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912143451.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2011, September 13). Nuclear detector: New materials hold promise for better detection of nuclear weapons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912143451.htm
Northwestern University. "Nuclear detector: New materials hold promise for better detection of nuclear weapons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110912143451.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
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:
from the past week

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