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Florida Poly project adds to national security and border protection

The team is building components for handheld radiation detectors.

Student researchers and faculty at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland are working on improving handheld radiation detector manufacturing to ensure efficiency.

A North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) grant is funding the research. The radiation detectors can be used at nuclear sites as well as for border patrol operations.

“Radiation detection plays an invaluable role in confirming that nations around the world are complying with international nuclear agreements,” said Robert Austin, an instructor of physics at Florida Poly who was won the grant.

The NATO grant is part of its Science for Peace and Security Programme.

The research team at Florida Poly used the grant to purchase a 3D printer that can print plastic with continuous carbon fiber. The carbon fiber shells will be used with other components of the detectors being developed under the same grant at the Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology in Ukraine.

“The strength of carbon fiber and its transparency to high-energy electromagnetic radiation should allow us to make significant improvements in ionization detector efficiency and portability, which will improve international organizations’ ability to regulate the development of nuclear power and weaponry,” said Austin, who is overseeing the first of two years of research associated with the project.

Florida Poly graduate Thomas Larson said the 3D printer is one of the most crucial pieces of the project.

“It actually makes the process feasible with a continuous strand,” Larson said. “Without a continuous strand, we wouldn’t really attempt it. We could attempt the carbon-fiber filled with other printers, but it’s the continuous strand that hopefully makes it stronger than we planned.”

Radiation detectors operate under high pressure, making it necessary to use strong enough materials to withstand that pressure. 

The research is aimed at finding ways to create radiation detection devices to protect national security and to provide that same technology for other countries to use in their own security efforts.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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