Detection and measurement of ionizing radiation is important in many strategic fields, particularly in the safe use of nuclear energy. With about 50% of the electrical power utilization being from seven nuclear power plants operating in South Carolina with an additional six plants close to its borders makes the state the epicenter of the current nuclear renaissance in the US. South Carolina is also home to a commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facility, and a commercial nuclear fuel fabrication facility. Clemson University participates in the field of nuclear energy with a variety of research programs, in special focusing on the discovery of new scintillating materials to be used in the detection and measurement of ionizing radiation. Scintillators are sensors capable to convert high energy (gamma- and X-ray) photons into numerous ultraviolet/visible photons that can be easily detected by a photodetector. Scintillators require high atomic number elements in their composition to allow for efficient capture of gamma-rays, and presently there is interest in finding bright scintillators composed with high atomic number elements that are not rare earths. In this research project, new materials and compositions in the forms of nanopowders, ceramics, and glasses will be evaluated in their scintillation performance. Special attention will be given to luminosity, degree of proportionality of the energy response, and energy resolution. Further, in oil exploration, scintillators are used in well logging when these sensors are descended into the oil well to obtain a continuous record of the rock properties of a geological formation. Records of natural gamma-ray radioactivity allows for distinguishing between different geological formations. However, scintillation efficiency is known to decrease significantly at the higher temperatures found deep into the wells. Within this research project, students will investigate the high temperature behavior of scintillators up to 300-400 oC.
The selected student will participate in intense experimental research that encompasses synthesis, post-fabrication processing, and characterization of materials towards establishing “structure-property” relationships of luminescent materials used for radiation detection and measurement. Throughout the REU internship, the student will be exposed to key techniques used in materials science including x-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, photoluminescence, thermoluminescence, and nuclear spectroscopy. The student will be introduced to research laboratory environment in order to learn safe procedures, practice scientific methodology to pursue a research goal, and learn how to obtain and analyze reliable data. The student will be supervised by MSE faculty Dr. Jacobsohn and will work in close contact with his graduate students.