Kansas State University opens cleanroom for nuclear contamination tests

Class 100 cleanroom was built with a US$2.7m grant from the US Defense Department

Kansas State University in the US has opened a US$3m cleanroom designed to help research and develop new radiation detector technologies. It will also assist in designing mass production processes able to make such detectors at affordable prices.

Located in the university’s Semiconductor Materials and Radiological Technologies Laboratory (SMART), the cleanroom was built with the help of a US$2.7m grant from the US Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

The laboratory will help the department organise large-scale production facilities for disposable radiation detectors for potential future radiation emergencies, such as that recently hitting Japan’s Fukushima power plant, said Douglas McGregor, SMART director and professor of nuclear engineering.

Our mission is not to do just research with the new detectors we are developing

“Our mission is not to do just research with the new detectors we are developing, but also to pass the technology on to industry,” said Prof McGregor. “We have equipment that would be similar to what they would use in an industrial laboratory.”

The 1,000ft2 Class 100 cleanroom will be used to make devices such as neutron detectors on silicon wafers, said the university. The development of radiation detectors is multifaceted, usually using crystalline solids, namely scintillators and semiconductors. Scintillators give off light when they react with radiation and one aim of ongoing research is to develop brighter scintillators. Novel semiconductors will also be developed at the laboratory.

“We have the capability of tailoring the type of detector we make to the needs the customers may have,” added Prof McGregor.