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'Build a Better Radioactivity Detector' Is Goal Of Florida Poly Researchers

Florida Polytechnic University
The research team includes instructor Robert Austin (left), Thomas Larson (center), and Marshall Smith (right).

A faculty member and a group of students at Florida Polytechnic University have been awarded a grant from NATO to develop research focusing on radiation detectors.

The $46,000 grant provided by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme allows the group to look for ways to detect radioactive materials, whether as part of border protection or space exploration.

“We’re concerned [about] people smuggling them through very public spaces like railway stations or airports, national borders, nuclear facilities,” said Robert Austin, the Florida Poly physics instructor awarded the grant.  “We would be developing a detector that's more portable and more effective at detecting these threat materials which, of course, improves everyone's security.”        

The funding allowed the group to purchase a special 3D printer that is the major component of the project. The printer is capable of creating a strong material of plastic reinforced with continuous carbon fiber.

Students Marshall Smith and Thomas Larson are part of the research group at the Lakeland university. They said their goal is to develop a way to print carbon shells with the 3D printer. 

“It actually makes the process feasible with a continuous strand,” said Larson, a mechanical engineer graduate at Florida Poly.

“Without a continuous strand, we wouldn’t really attempt it. We could attempt the carbon fiber filled with other printers, but it’s the continuous strand that hopefully makes it stronger than we planned.”

This research is part of a larger project with the Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology in Ukraine, who is a part of the same grant.

“They’re actually developing the xenon detectors and we’re developing the reinforcing shells for them,” Austin said.

Radiation detection is a new area of study at Florida Poly, a public state university that focuses on science, engineering, technology and mathematics. 

Rachel Smith is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2019.
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