Engineered Nanoparticles for Inexpensive Scintillator Radiation Detectors

Technology #13541

Invention

The University of Florida is seeking companies interested in commercializing a new optically transparent material based on specially engineered nanoparticles that, when incorporated into scintillation counters, permits sensitive ionizing radiation detection at lower cost. Scintillation counters, commonly called radiation detectors, are composed of materials that emit light when charged particles, neutrons, X-rays and gamma rays move through them. The emitted light, also called scintillation, generates an electrical signal that is used to confirm the presence and to characterize the source of ionizing radiation. There are many sources of ionizing radiation, including natural and man-made. Detection and measurement of radiation is important in many economical activities, including mining and nuclear power generation, as well as in cancer treatment (radiotherapy), and medical diagnosis and imaging. It is also very important in security applications. Available scintillators commonly correspond to high-cost single crystals, many of them highly hygroscopic and of cumbersome maintenance. Others are glasses with intrinsic low light output, and organic scintillators that while bright, lack effective stopping power for high-energy gamma rays. Researchers at the University of Florida have invented a low-cost scintillating material based on specially engineered nanoparticles that will facilitate detection, measurement and monitoring of ionizing radiation. Not only is it highly effective for detecting radiation, it is also versatile, and can be adapted to different radioactive conditions and types of radiation. In addition, production is more cost-effective than traditional single crystal growth manufacturing techniques. The technology may also lend itself to neutron detection.

Application

New scintillator material that is more economical than the current single crystals for radiation detection

Advantages

  • Able to detect extremely low levels of ionizing radiation, enhancing safety
  • Streamlines manufacturing process, making it preferable to popular single-crystal growth techniques
  • Compatible with handheld detectors, permitting unsurpassed versatility

Technology

Ionizing radiation is inherent to nature and human activities. University of Florida researchers have invented a material that, when incorporated into a device called a scintillation counter, helps detect the presence of dangerous ionizing radiation, even in trace amounts. The material’s creation involves matching the nanoparticles’ index of refraction to the host matrix in order to reduce optical scattering, and thus enhancing optical transparency. By designing the nanoparticles in specific ways, the researchers simultaneously achieve greater surface passivation and enhanced light output.