Physicists at Fisk University’s Radiation Detection Laboratory (RDL) have assisted in the discovery of a new class of crystals for use in port of entry security devices and planetary exploration. Fisk’s research findings are supported by a $200,000 research grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through its Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO).
Along with Fisk, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc are conducting scintillator and radiation detection research. Research at Fisk has lead to an increase in sensitivity of radiation detection sensors by improving the purity and quality of the crystals used in the scintillator detectors. The newly discovered sensors contain crystals made of strontium iodide containing europium and emit a pulse of light when illuminated by an X- or gamma-ray. The light output potential for these crystals is improved by 100% when compared with the industry standard originally developed in 2004. Greater light output potential contributes to error reduction in sensors for cargo inspection and surveillance devices.
“The detectors we are studying emit almost twice the amount of light than the best crystal detectors previously available,” said Fisk University Physicist Arnold Burger. “Our next step will be to participate in the deployment of our discovery into commercial products.”
Two of the University’s recent graduate students, Dr. Rastgo Hawrami and Julia Bodnarik have been involved in the research efforts. Bodnarik is pursuing doctoral studies at Vanderbilt as a member of the Fisk/Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program. She will continue to study the device to learn more about the chemistry of planets in the solar system in future NASA missions. Hawrami graduated from Fisk with a masters’ degree in physics in 2005 and earned his Ph.D. in 2008 from Alabama A& M University and was recently hired by Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc.