ARLINGTON - The National
Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have awarded more
than $1.3 million to a team of UT Arlington researchers who will spend the next
five years exploring ways to develop various nanoparticles for radiation
research could lead to a new type of radiation detector that would help reduce
the threat of nuclear materials being brought into the country illegally and
used in terrorism.
Assistant Professor Wei Chen, the principal investigator, and Professor Andrew Brandt, the co-principal investigator, will
lead the research efforts. The nanocomposites designed for radiation detection
are polymer thin films embedded with luminescence nanoparticles. These nanocomposites will glow with light
when they encounter radiation sources, such as gamma rays.
"The broader impact of this proposal is
potentially enormous," Chen said. "Development of more effective uranium
detections devices could be of immeasurable benefit to society if it were to
help deter or prevent a nuclear incident."
detection devices - called scintillators - currently used in baggage handling
and shipping situations are expensive and difficult to build, Chen said. The
new method would be relatively inexpensive, easier to build and provide
quicker, more accurate results.
"The unique aspect of this proposal is that the
nanoparticles are formed into hybrid ‘crystals' that combine the high stopping
power and excellent energy resolution of crystals with the potentially high
quantum efficiency and short decay lifetimes associated
with nanoparticles," Brandt said.
Once tested and demonstrated, the new detectors could cost
about $25 for a crystal that is about one centimeter wide and 10 centimeters
"The low price would make these nanoparticles competitive
with other detector options, especially when combined with the prospects of
higher sensitivity for radiation detection," Chen said.
Arlington researchers involved in the new grant are Alex Weiss, professor and
chair of the physics department; Lynn Peterson, professor and associate dean of
the College of Engineering; Ratan Kumar, senior lecturer in mechanical and
aerospace engineering; and Rasool Kenarangui, senior lecturer in electrical
engineering. Also involved in the project
are senior scientists Alan G. Joly and Brian Milbrath from the U.S. Department
of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The grant builds on a 2007 NSF/Homeland Security $355,798 grant obtained by Chen and
Brandt in 2007.
Science Foundation is providing $253,000 in first-year funding for the new project.
The remaining four years will be supported through Homeland Security.
to their research, the team will be including an educational outreach
component. Lectures, seminars and an annual symposium are planned to spark
student interest in research and promote the idea that nanotechnology,
high-energy physics and nuclear engineering can work in concert to further
between multiple disciplines are on the rise at UT Arlington, an institution of
nearly 33,000 students with a rapidly escalating research profile. For more
about UT Arlington, visit www.uta.edu.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.