Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Radiation Detection Gets Direction

A new class of directional radiation detectors are at once accurate, agile, and affordable.
February 1, 2019
A radiation detector composed of a metal box with a purple cable connected to it.

A lighthouse radiation detector is named for its sweeping and scanning field of view, which comes from all but one side being shielded to attenuate the signal.

In keeping with the noble job of their namesake, lighthouse detectors cast their gaze into the darkness, helping to keep people out of harm’s way.

Conventional radiation detectors operate on proximity—the closer the source the stronger the signal—so pinpointing a source is a literal game of “hot-and-cold.” But engineers at Los Alamos have pioneered a novel suite of radiation detectors that are more sophisticated. Named “lighthouse detectors” based on their sweeping and scanning field of view, they can pinpoint the direction of a radiation source without having to approach it, and they can distinguish between multiple sources. Lighthouse detectors offer improvements to geological surveys, radiological remediation, and the safety and speed of material inventories.


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