A new tool may soon help the U.S. military stop a nuclear attack, and it was made in Kansas City.
For the past 8 years, UMKC physics professor, Anthony Caruso, has led a research team of students and professors from UMKC, K-State and University of Missouri – Columbia to develop a new way to find radiation.
“There’s just not that many options available because there are so many containers and it’s so easy to hide special nuclear material on one of these container ships,” said Caruso.
That’s the “wicked problem” Caruso’s team is attacking. They’ve developed a device that can detect neutrons from radiation.
“And the reason that’s important is because neutrons aren’t stopped by shielding material like gamma rays are,” said Caruso. “So it gives you another particle and another means by which to try and assess whether or not there might be special nuclear material, especially illicitly transported nuclear material.”
The $4 million project received initial funding by the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Threat Reduction Force. It’s being manufactured by Kansas City’s U2D, who licensed the technology.
The project recently won an R&D Magazine 100 Award, considered the “Oscars of Invention.”
“We’ve gone from scratching something on a napkin in terms of a really basic physics concept and then doing basic physics simulations to then building and prototyping these instruments, testing them here in the lab and then testing them out in the field,” said Caruso. “Having patents come out of this, having companies license those patents, having companies then transition this technology to a manufacturing point and then winning an industry award.”
A procurement contract with the U.S. Navy or another entity is the next step Caruso’s team hopes to take.
Brian Abel can be reached at email@example.com.