Y-12 neutron detector wins prestigious R&D 100 Award

Posted: July 9, 2013 - 4:11pm

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.-A Y-12 nuclear nonproliferation technology offering significant possibilities in the homeland security field was among those listed on the R&D Magazine 51st Annual R&D 100 Awards. The honor salutes the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace during the past year.

The LISeTM, a high-efficiency thermal neutron detector based on the 6LiInSe2 crystal, is the first large, single-crystal semiconductor of high resistivity that contains lithium and directly detects thermal neutrons with high efficiency. The single-crystalline device will be used in handheld nuclear nonproliferation and homeland security applications to find fissile materials. Its simpler, more compact design and higher efficiency are key improvements that will appeal to users.

The Y-12 National Security Complex joined three other National Nuclear Security Administration sites in winning a total of 11 awards this year. This year's award brings Y-12's total to nine since 2007.

"My sincere congratulations to the winners of this year's R&D 100 Awards," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. "The scientists and engineers who developed these award-winning technologies at the cutting edge facilities across our national labs are keeping Americans at the forefront of the innovation community and assuring our nation's economic competitiveness and national security."

The B&W Y-12 development team of Ashley Stowe, senior development chemist; Zane Bell, former senior scientist (now at Oak Ridge National Laboratory); and Arnold Burger, professor of Physics from Fisk University; developed this solid-state neutron detector as a replacement technology for 3He thermal neutron detectors. It offers the significant advantages of portability, sensitivity, simplicity and low cost.

"I applaud Ashley Stowe and his team for their groundbreaking work-they truly deserve this award," said B&W Y-12 President and General Manager Chuck Spencer. "Y-12 is known for its innovation in developing great solutions to complex issues, and this is a perfect example."

When the technology fully matures, Y-12 will work with a private-industry partner to create hand-held neutron detectors. With the right partner, Stowe estimates these detectors could be commercially available in three to four years.

Awarded each year by R&D Magazine to the best technological advances at universities, private corporations, and government labs around the world, the R&D 100 Awards are occasionally referred to as "the Nobel Prizes of technology." They were first awarded in 1963 as the I-R 100s, in keeping with the original name of the magazine, Industrial Research. The awards will be presented in November in Orlando, Fla.

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