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Radiation detectors are vital to both scientific research and national security. In the former, these devices allow for precise monitoring of nuclear decay, cosmic radiation, or reactions in a particle accelerator. National security applications include detection of smuggled nuclear material or nuclear weapons.
Solid-state spark chambers, also known as semiconductor radiation detectors, are compact and easily used. Exposing a semiconductor to radiation produces free electrons and holes in the semiconductor. The existence of these electron-hole pairs indicates the presence of radiation, while the number of electron-hole pairs is proportionate to the energy of the radiation. Under the influence of an electric field, the electrons and holes travel to electrodes on either side of the semiconductor radiation detector, resulting in a measurable voltage pulse.
While efficient and easy to use, there is an ever-present need to increase the sensitivity of spark chambers to reach new detection thresholds. To that point, Navy scientists have made a combined semiconductor controlled circuit that includes a semiconductor controlled switch (SCS). This design yields a particle detector using a straightforward self-reset circuit with a commercial SCS that can be directly used as a particle counter.
- Combines the small size with low power consumption of semiconductor detectors and the high gain and sensitivity of gas detectors
- US patent 9,594,172 available for license
- Potential for collaboration with Navy researchers