Cell Phone Doubles as Radiation Detector

Cell Phone Doubles as Radiation Detector


In the future, customs agents, police and other workers could carry cell phones that double as radiation detectors and serve as part of a vast, nationwide detection network.

This device and more than a dozen other advanced technologies to detect clandestine nuclear materials or nuclear devices are under development at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

A new Center of Excellence, known as the Radiation Detection Center, or RDC, has been formed at the Laboratory to help initiate creative solutions to the nation’s needs, including countering nuclear terrorism.

The RDC was formally opened today in a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by Rep. Ellen Tauscher; George Vinson, director of California’s Office of Homeland Security; and Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio

“Historically, Lawrence Livermore has had a great deal of expertise in radiation detection,” said RDC Director Simon Labov. “What the center does is leverage our past work to help meet today’s security needs, including the detection, identification and analysis of nuclear materials and nuclear devices.”

“In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we were able to help various federal agencies because we offered a coordinated and easy way to access the Laboratory’s radiation detection capabilities,” Labov said.

Jeff Richardson of the Laboratory’s Nonproliferation, Arms Control and International Security (NAI) directorate, noted: “Even though the RDC was unofficially started prior to Sept. 11, this center is exactly what the Laboratory and the nation need as part of their response to the threat posed by terrorism.”
Greater sensitivity in detection is probably the most critical factor for finding nuclear materials, Labov believes.

“Nuclear materials are radioactive and give off emissions that can be detected. Unfortunately, the emissions are very weak and can sometimes be shielded. Thus, sensitivity is everything, and that’s what we’re trying to improve.”

Some examples of projects under way by Laboratory scientists associated with the RDC are:

• RadNet, A Cellular Telephone-Based Radiation Detector Network: Under development for six months, RadNet is based on small detector units that will feature the capabilities of a cell phone, radiation sensor, Personal Digital Assistant, Internet access and a Global Positioning System locator.

The RadNet units would be deployed as part of a wide network that would report and transmit data about the possible location of clandestine nuclear materials or devices.