Enhanced Detection of Nuclear Materials

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing


  • Mark Deinert , University of Texas at Austin
  • Andrew Gilbert , Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Benjamin McDonald , Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Sean Robinson , Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Ken Jarman , Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Tim White , Battelle Memorial Institute

Background/unmet need

Current radio-graphic methods are limited in their ability to determine the presence of nuclear materials in containers or composite objects. A central problem is the inability to distinguish the attenuation pattern of high-density metals from those with a greater thickness of a less dense material.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the greatest danger to nuclear security comes from terrorists acquiring sufficient quantities of plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) to construct a crude nuclear explosive device. The IAEA also notes that most cases of illicit nuclear trafficking have involved gram-level quantities, which can be challenging to detect with most inspection methods.

Invention Description

Researchers at UT Austin and Pacific Northwest National Labs have developed a method for using spectrally sensitive detectors to discriminate nuclear materials from multiple layers of other materials using single or multi-view radio-graphs. The accompanying algorithm is adaptive to find an optimal solution without active user input. This technology could dramatically increase international security and aid in the defense against nuclear trafficking.


  • Used to rapidly scan sealed objects for enclosed nuclear material using single view x-ray radio-graph.  
  • Can readily be adapted for use in medical imaging to improve image quality while reducing x-ray dose to patient.


  • A method to discriminate nuclear materials in a layered object with a single or multi-view spectral radiography.
  • Algorithm uses regularization, which stabilizes the solution and increases accuracy.
  • Adaptive in order to find an optimal solution without active user input.

Market potential/applications

Domestic and international x-ray security scanner market, which is projected to grow over 1.5bn in USD by 2016; medical Imaging

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status