For the development of intelligent radiation-detection networks that can provide early warning of radioactive materials – improving the ability of security services to counter the threat of nuclear terrorism.

There are increasing concerns about public safety against potential radiological terrorist events. Such a device, deployed in a city or urban area, could render it unsafe for humans for some considerable amount of time due to nuclear contamination. In the past, photomultiplier tubes have been used to detect unusual radiation signatures – there are bulky, fragile and expensive, and were placed in specific sites that were thought to be potential targets. They do not provide the level of detection required.

As part of a US Department of Defense (DoD) programme, Kromek has developed is a compact gamma/neutron detector with wireless connectivity, allowing networking across a whole city. The devices use cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) as the detector, complemented by the use of silicon photomultiplier devices. This combination has enabled Kromek to develop high-resolution detectors compact enough to comfortably be carried by police officers and community first responders. The detectors are networked – as they are carried by police officers and first responders around a city – so they jointly build up a picture of the normal radiation levels around a city. Threats can then be detected when the radiation level differs from what is normal for a specific area.

The project has been a huge success and was given an award by the DoD. To date, 13,000 units have been sold in the US, Japan and Europe, generating turnover of more than £7.5 m.

The company

Kromek Group plc is a UK technology company and a leading developer of high-performance radiation detection products based on cadmium zinc telluride. Using its core CZT technology, Kromek designs, develops and produces X-ray and gamma-ray imaging and radiation detection products for the medical, security screening and nuclear markets.