United Nations weapons inspectors could have an easier time in the future locating nuclear materials. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln developed a fingertip-sized neutron detection device built around a boroncarbide semiconductor diode. The highly sensitive device can detect neutrons emitted by materials that fuel nuclear weapons. "This is a leapfrog technology in neutron detection," said Peter Dowben, UNL physicist who first fabricated a boron carbide semiconductor. Using Dowben's semiconductor, the research team built a detector about the size of one LEGO® block, which the researchers say is more efficient, lighter, and tougher than existing detectors. It can be powered with small batteries or even solar cells and can withstand corrosion and extremely high temperatures, says Brian Robertson, associate professor of mechanical engineering at UNL. The device could also be used to monitor nuclear weapons storage and other national security applications. Patents on the semiconductor process and the detector are pending. For more information, contact Brian Robertson at (402) 417-5054 or email@example.com.
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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