Greek Scientist Develops Revolutionary New Radiation Detector

A Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory research team led by Greek scientist Mercouri Kanatzidis has developed an exceptional next-generation material for nuclear radiation detection.

It is thought it could provide a significantly less-expensive alternative to the detectors now in commercial use.

Specifically, the high-performance material is used in a device that can detect gamma rays, weak signals given off by nuclear materials, and can easily identify individual radioactive isotopes.

It has been more than 30 years since a material with this performance was developed, with the new development having the advantage of being inexpensive to produce.

Potential uses for the new device include more widespread detectors — including handheld — for nuclear weapons and materials as well as applications in biomedical imaging, astronomy and spectroscopy.

“Governments of the world want a quick, low-cost way to detect gamma rays and nuclear radiation to fight terrorist activities, such as smuggling and dirty bombs, and the proliferation of nuclear materials,” said Northwestern’s Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, the corresponding author of the paper.

“This has been a very difficult problem for scientists to solve. Now we have an exciting new semiconductor device that is inexpensive to make and works well at room temperature.”

Kanatzidis is a Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. He has a joint appointment with Argonne.

The research was published in April in the journal Nature Communications.

Kanatzidis was born in 1957 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

After he obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 1979, he made his way to the United States and received his PhD degree in chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1984.

Subsequently (from 1985 to 1987), he worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the chemistry departments at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University.

In 1987, he joined Michigan State University as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1991 and Professor in 1993.

In 2006, he moved to Northwestern University as the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry. He also holds a position at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL, Chicago) as a Senior Scientist (since 2006).