Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have generated a new prototype radiation detection device for use at ports, border crossings, airports and elsewhere.
Using new materials and nanotechnology techniques, they've developed the Nano-photonic Composite Scintillation Detector, which combines rare-earth elements and other materials at the nanoscale to improve sensitivity, accuracy and robustness.
The co-principal researcher Bernd Kahn said that, “US 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 and both of these threats can be successfully detected by the right technology."
There are currently two common types of radiation detectors: scintillation detector, which usually employ a single crystal of sodium iodide or a similar material, and solid-state detectors based on semiconducting materials such as germanium.
Both technologies can detect gamma rays and subatomic particles emitted by nuclear material, but have drawbacks. The large sodium iodide crystals required for scintillation detectors are typically fragile, cumbersome, difficult to produce and extremely vulnerable to humidity.