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An innovative, portable gamma ray detector

This is Science Today. Engineers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a small, handheld gamma ray spectrometer that can be used for Homeland Security.

Burks:                        We want to detect and prevent radioactive material from being smuggled into the country. For example, at shipping ports or border crossings, you would like a high resolution gamma ray detector to tell you if someone's trying to bring something through.

Narrator:       Staff physicist Morgan Burks, says unlike previous portable devices, their innovative spectrometer provides high resolution images by using a germanium crystal, which requires freezing temperatures. Previous portable devices needed large storage vessels for liquid nitrogen to keep the detectors cold.

Burks:                        So, the big technological breakthrough was adapting these small, sterling cycle mechanical coolers, basically a small refrigerator to the detector and that allows us to now keep the detector cold with simply a battery and we're able to cool it for say, 10 to 12 hours.

Narrator:       The instrument is now in the process of being commercialized. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.