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Sensors and Detectors

Working with agencies and departments across the United States, Argonne scientists are committed to developing the technologies necessary to prevent and mitigate security events across the country.

In the era of big data, collecting the right data and at the right time is key. Argonne uses its materials and engineering expertise to develop, test and deploy sensors to detect materials that can be used for nepharious purposes, including nuclear and radiological materials, chemical and biological agents and explosives.

Focusing on National Security

Sensing technology has been in use by the United States for many decades. For more than 40 years, the U.S. has used micro-channel plates (MCPs), for ultra-sensitive radiation detection. Still, challenges remain in optimizing this technology. MCPs are labor intensive, difficult to customize and expensive to fabricate.

Scientists at Argonne are working to solve these problems. Their research determined that a multi-head 3D printer with a resolution of more than 100 nanometers could produce MCP sensors. The printers are commercially available and can shave time and cost from the production process. They can print up to one square meter micro-channel plate in a few hours for just a few dollars in labor and materials.

Collaborating for Results

Argonne’s success in cutting cost and production time for these critical national security sensors resulted from collaboration of many experts at the Laboratory and access to key technology. Expertise in materials science, nuclear engineering and biochemistry work together in this area of national security. Initially, Argonne collaborated on the Large-area Picosecond Photo-Detector, which developed an infrastructure to test the MCPs. This facility proved essential for the testing of prototypes later developed at Argonne.

Achieving Success

Sensors and detectors are essential to safeguarding our national interests. Our capabilities to detect and track sensitive radiological, chemical and biological agents is directly tied to our ability to rapidly develop, test, produce and deploy advanced sensor technologies. Argonne’s work to develop 3D printing capabilities and testing helps ensure we collect the right data at the right time to support national security programs across the United States, including border protection, cargo and transportation security.