III-V Nitride Microcantilever based Nuclear and Radiological Sensor


Reference #: 00979

The University of South Carolina is offering licensing opportunities for this novel, cost-effective system used in identifying radioactive fission gasses.

Invention Description:

The subject invention is a portable sensor system developed for identifying radioactive fission gases. It addresses the drawbacks of current state-of-the-art systems and facilitates easy and widespread monitoring for safe and clean nuclear operations. The detection of radioactive fission gases, 129I, 133Xe, and 85Kr, involves utilizing the high sensitivity and versatile detection capability of radiation hard III-V nitride micro-cantilevers. Three different types of micro-cantilevers were fabricated in the course of the project leading up to the invention, and used in both static and dynamic mode to measure the changes in surface work function, temperature change, pressure change, viscosity, and thermal conductivity. Using a multimodal detection approach, the various sensing signals were processed to determine presence of each species and their concentration uniquely.

Advantages and Benefits:

  1. Miniaturized measurement systems, similar to the proposed system do not exist at present.

  2. Relatively cheaper and more effective than existing systems

Potential Applications:

The devices allows for better understanding of multiple processes in the nuclear fuel cycle, including (i) the ageing and degradation of reactor structures and components, (ii) monitoring of used fuel storage systems, (iii) environmental tracing following a nuclear accident, and (iv) detection of proliferation activities.

The device can be used in portable sensor systems for radioactive fission gases that facilitate easy monitoring for safe and clean nuclear operations.

Testing and Development:

The system has been estimated to result in 100 fold reductions in procurement and maintenance costs, 100 fold in weight, and at least 20 fold reductions in size over the existing system.


The recent approval of the first operating license for two new reactors in more than 30 years has reaffirmed the importance of nuclear power in the U.S. energy portfolio. However, the cost of operating a Plant Life Extension program is still considerably lower than the capital cost of building a new reactor, and so is being widely adopted as a way to meet power demand, which is expected to show a compound annual growth rate of 4% worldwide between 2012 and 2020. Highly selective and sensitive detection of radioactive gases (Kr, Xe, I and Cs) produced during the fission of uranium and plutonium, offers tremendous potential for developing a technical analysis for extending the life of today’s light water reactors, and managing their long term safe and economical operation. Portable, low power, and inexpensive sensors that uniquely identify these fission products, while being robust and radiation hard, are not currently available. This invention addresses that need.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Technology Commercialization
University of South Carolina
Goutam Koley
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