You can't teach old materials new tricks

Feb 16, 2008
You can't teach old materials new tricks
A graphic timeline of key radiation detection material discoveries. Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

A more sensitive, more selective and easily deployable radiation detection material is necessary to meet complex 21st century challenges. In the AAAS symposium “Radiation Detectors for Global Security: The Need for Science-Driven Discovery,” researchers addressed some of the technical challenges and gaps and proposed a science-driven approach to uncovering novel materials that will benefit national security and medicine.

“Until now, it can be argued that we’ve approached the challenge in an Edisonian-style; I think it’s time to make a drastic change in how we pursue solutions to radiation detection,” said Anthony Peurrung, director of the Physical and Chemical Sciences division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“In order for us to make new discoveries, we need to improve our understanding of radiation physics so that we make educated choices about which materials will and will not perform as we need them to, thus working more efficiently toward a solution.”

Five primary materials are used for radiation detection, but they all have limitations, such as small size, challenges in manufacturing, poor discrimination of radionuclides and poor sensitivity. For example, single crystalline materials, used as semiconductors or scintillators, generally provide the highest sensitivity and best energy resolution. But, it can take a decade or more to develop high-quality, single crystals that are of sufficient size for use as radiation detectors, and there are a limited number of manufacturing facilities to produce the crystals.

Peurrung leads PNNL’s Radiation Detection and Material Discovery Initiative, which is a three-year, $4.5 million research effort aimed at discovering new materials for radionuclide identification, accelerating discovery processes and improving our fundamental understanding of radiation detection.

Bill Weber, a Laboratory Fellow, organized the symposium. He is a AAAS fellow and is internationally recognized for his seminal scientific contributions on the interaction of radiation with solids and radiation effects in materials.

Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Explore further: Improving insulation materials, down to wetting crossed fibers

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How oversized atoms could help shrink

Jul 01, 2015

"Lab-on-a-chip" devices – which can carry out several laboratory functions on a single, micro-sized chip – are the result of a quiet scientific revolution over the past few years. For example, they enable ...

Physicists shatter stubborn mystery of how glass forms

Jun 29, 2015

A physicist at the University of Waterloo is among a team of scientists who have described how glasses form at the molecular level and provided a possible solution to a problem that has stumped scientists ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.