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The first plastic material for neutron and gamma ray detection

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The first plastic material for neutron and gamma ray detection
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have won five awards granted by R&D Magazine for their efforts in developing breakthrough technologies with commercial potential, inter alia for plastic scintillators for neutron and gamma ray detection.

R&D Magazine announced the winners of its annual R&D 100 Awards, sometimes called the "Oscars of Invention" on Wednesday. The awards will be presented Nov. 1 during a black-tie dinner at the SeaWorld Conference Center in Orlando, Fla.

The R&D 100 Awards have long been a benchmark of excellence for industry sectors as diverse as telecommunications, high-energy physics, software, manufacturing and biotechnology. For industry leaders, government labs and academic institutions, the awards can be vital for gauging their efforts at commercialization of emerging technologies. In winning an R&D 100 Award, developers often find the push their product needs to find success in the marketplace.

Ensuring the United States remains safe from a nuclear or radiological attack has motivated the search for more definitive radiation detection and identification technologies. Detecting neutrons and gamma rays, and distinguishing one from the other, are key to identifying nuclear substances such as uranium and plutonium and differentiating them from benign radioactive sources.

A team of LLNL researchers, led by Natalia Zaitseva and Steve Payne, has developed the first plastic material capable of efficiently distinguishing neutrons from gamma rays, something not thought possible for the past five decades or so.

With this major technology advance, pulse-shape discrimination using plastic scintillators can offer the same or even better resolution compared to standard commercial liquid scintillators, but without the associated and well-known hazards of liquids. Efficient pulse-shape discrimination combined with easy fabrication and advantages in deployment of plastics over liquids may lead to widespread use of the new materials as large-volume and low-cost detectors.

With the material's low cost, huge plastic sheets could be formed easily into larger surface areas than other neutron detectors currently used and could aid in the protection of ports, stadiums and other large facilities.

The Institute has also been awarded for High-performance coatings via HVLAD, Lasers look to LEOPARD, Snowflake Power Divertor for nuclear fusion reactors, Multiplexed Photonic Doppler Velocimeter.

"I am proud that the Laboratory continues to receive outstanding recognition through the R&D 100 awards," said Tomas Diaz de la Rubia, the Lab's deputy director of Science and Technology. "Once again, our scientists and engineers have succeeded in winning acclaim in a wide range of research areas. These teams are using their world-class capabilities and external partnerships to help solve difficult challenges in the global interest."