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UT graduate invents radiation detector that may be used to stop nuclear material smuggling

A UT nuclear engineering graduate invented a radiation detector that may be used to stop people from smuggling nuclear materials and help emergency responders.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Emergency responders and nuclear security professionals may have easier jobs after Micah Folsom, a doctoral graduate from the college of engineering at the University of Tennessee, invented a new radiation detector.

It's the first working compact neutron scatter camera and uses technology that's similar to the Advanced Compton Telescope, which is used to look at interstellar explosions. Usually, this kind of technology requires lots of space to use.

Folsom's design takes pictures of radiation and shows where it is coming from. People would be able to carry the camera on their own person, taking pictures of things on the ground instead of distant stars. 

Emergency responders and security professionals may be able to use it to find places where nuclear materials may be hidden, according to officials.

It uses coded-aperture imaging, which includes a specific shadow pattern and a light source. The kind of radiation the camera looks for will cast a shadow through a specific pattern, helping users find the source of specific kinds of materials.

The camera also uses an algorithm to help users determine where radiation is coming from.

“This design has very good potential to be able to image neutron sources rather quickly due to high potential for excellent imaging efficiency,” Jason Hayward said in a press release, associate nuclear engineering department head and Folsom’s thesis advisor.