Improving Efficiency of Handheld Radiation Devices
Shayan Shahbazi has long been interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Inspired by his parents, particularly his father, an electrical engineer, Shahbazi pursued chemical engineering in college. The benefits of nuclear power as a form of zero carbon emission electricity motivated him to transition to nuclear engineering.
Now Shahbazi specializes in nuclear security, forensics and nuclear waste management while pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Recently Shahbazi traveled back to his home state of California to conduct research in nuclear security with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) Summer Internship Program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).
The DNDO Summer Internship Program provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in projects at federal research facilities across the United States. Participants assist in addressing issues related to national security and nuclear detection to help DNDO meet its mission and train future generations of scientists.
Under the mentorship of Erik Swanberg, Ph.D., Shahbazi investigated silicon photomultipliers (SiPM) for use in handheld radiation detectors. SiPMs are used to detect photons, and they can be utilized as an alternative for photon detection to photomultiplier tubes (PMTs). SiPMs are superior detectors because of their small size, sturdiness and efficiency. The goal of Shahbazi’s research was to investigate ways to replace PMTs with SiPMs in handheld detectors, thus creating a smaller and better handheld radiation detector.
The handheld detectors are used to monitor and detect nuclear materials in the field. In addition to detecting radiation, the devices can also read the energy of gamma rays being emitted from an unknown material. This extra detection benefit can help identify the material and any potential danger.
Shahbazi’s research will contribute toward efforts to make an enhanced, more mobile detector. The tool would be essential in the event of a nuclear detonation. The handheld devices can be used to monitor nuclear materials and detect their transportation, a crucial preventive measure to ensure the materials do not fall into dangerous hands.
For Shahbazi, a typical day at the lab involved reviewing scientific literature and testing the SiPMs. Shahbazi attended weekly seminars related to homeland security topics, as well as networking events for interns at LLNL.
“I loved working at LLNL, and I appreciated the work culture here,” commented Shahbazi. “I’ve enjoyed meeting students from all across the country and from different academic backgrounds. I learned a lot of technical skills related to this research, but more importantly, I learned teamwork skills and how to maintain a professional attitude about everything.”
Shahbazi returned to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to finish his doctoral degree. He intends to work in the field of nuclear security, and he maintains a strong interest in the recycling of spent nuclear fuel and promoting energy sustainability through nuclear power.
The DNDO Summer Internship Program is funded by DNDO and administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is managed for DOE by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.