Our research has been supported by National Science Foundation, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Research Thrust 1: Nuclear Detection and Remote Sensing

Nuclear nonproliferation and security are some of the major challenges associated with the expansion of nuclear power. Both a sound nuclear policy and major advances in detection science and technology are needed to address those challenges. We are pursuing a set of research projects in collaboration with other academic departments, universities, and national laboratories, focusing on the development of advanced technology needed to safeguard the nuclear technology and detect nuclear proliferation. Some of our recent projects include:

1) Remote discovery and monitoring of nuclear reactors using antineutrinos (Sponsor: DOE/NNSA)

We are a part of the WATCHMAN collaboration – a US/UK group of universities and national laboratories led by LLNL that will deploy a large water Cherenkov antineutrino detector at the Boubly Underground Laboratory in England and demonstrate remote detection of the 25-km distant Hartlepool Nuclear Reactor. This activity is supported by the NNSA in collaboration with UK government and seeks to develop an Advanced Instrumentation Testbed for a multitude of nonproliferation technologies.

2) Low-dose shielded nuclear materials detection (Sponsor: NSF/DHS)

With the support of the Academic Research Initiative program of the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security, we are exploring methods to detect shielded nuclear materials via active interrogation. In this multi-particle method we can use monoenergetic photons and/or neutrons to perform transmission imaging or induce photofission. We are developing new solid-state glass-plastic composite neutron detectors to facilitate detection of fast neutrons. This work is conducted in collaboration with MIT and Georgia Tech.


3) Development of radiation sensors and radiation hard electronics based on graphene and other 2D materials (Sponsor: NSF/DHS and DTRA)

With the support of the Academic Research Initiative program of the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security, we have been investigating non-traditional detection methods and detector architectures based on graphene, a new material with numerous favorable properties for potential use in radiation detection. With the support of Defense Threat Reduction Agency, we are studying radiation effects other novel 2-dimensional material for applications such as radiation-hard electronics.


4) Directional neutron detection (Sponsor: DOE/LLNL)

In collaboration and with the support of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Energy we are investigating the use of time projection chambers, sophisticated detectors used in particle and nuclear physics research, as high-performance directional neutron detectors for nonproliferation applications and for accurate measurement of fission cross sections.


5) Coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering (Sponsor: DHS/DOE/LLNL)

Detection of neutrinos is an emerging technology in nuclear safeguards. In collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory we are attempting to demonstrate experimentally for the first time a new mode of interaction of neutrinos with matter – coherent neutrino-nucleus scattering – which can potentially significantly reduce the size of neutrino detectors. Such detectors can efficiently and non-intrusively monitor nuclear reactors and have additional applications in dark matter search.


6) Fission distribution anisotropy studies by use of the surrogate reaction method (Sponsor: LLNL/DHS)

The surrogate reaction method is highly suitable for measurements of short-lived nuclides. We are studying the low energy fission anisotropy of Pu-239, U-235, and U-238 prevalent in surrogate reactions. In conjunction with microscopic cross section models, this work can extend the validity of surrogate method to measure cross sections of short-lived isotopes to energies <1 MeV for nearly any actinide. This work is conducted in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Texas A&M University.




7) Quantum remote sensing (Sponsor: DOE/DARPA)

Advanced technology is needed to support areal surveillance for detection of proliferation activities. We are exploring a novel class of sensors based on nonclassical manipulation of light to demonstrate imaging resolution that exceeds that of classical imaging systems. This work is conducted by the use of a state-of-the-art ultrashort laser facility in the Intense Laser Laboratory with support of the Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.


8) Femtosecond laser spectroscopy for nuclear forensics (Sponsor: DHS)


Nuclear forensics is an area of increasing importance in the present climate of post-Cold War nuclear threats. In collaboration with ANL, LBNL, and LLNL we are investigating the potential of laser spectroscopy using shaped femtosecond pulses to enhance the sensitivity and speed of nuclear forensics techniques. This work is conducted by the use of a state-of-the-art ultrashort laser facility in the Intense Laser Laboratory with support of the Department of Homeland Security.


Research Thrust 2: Ultraintense Laser Science and Technology

In the past two decades, remarkable developments in laser technology occurred, resulting in peak power exceeding 1 Petawatt and focal spot intensities exceeding 10²² W/cm², establishing a new and promising field of relativistic optics and high-field science. Importantly, laser systems producing relativistic intensities have become available in university settings. Applications of such systems in nuclear engineering are numerous and include production of intense pulses of X-rays, gamma-rays, neutrons, as well as extremely high-current electron and ion beams. Such systems have been used for isotope production, inertial confinement fusion via fast ignition, studies of ultrafast dynamics in solids, and even for demonstration of photon-photon scattering. Our current research activities include:

1) Advanced pulse shaping techniques (Sponsor: DARPA/PRF)

With the support of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency we are investigating the use of phase-sensitive parametric interactions to produce complex shapes of ultrashort laser pulses needed to support applications in ultrafast and materials science, nuclear fusion, and particle accelerators.


2) Technology and diagnostics of ultrahigh intensity laser systems (Sponsor: DOE/LLNL)

We are exploring advanced architectures and techniques to provide advances in high-intensity laser technology for inertial confinement fusion and high-energy density physics.



3) Laser-based radiation sources (Sponsor: DTRA/DARPA)

Novel, high-risk approaches to particle acceleration are being studied, with the aim to allow low-power ultrafast laser systems to achieve large acceleration gradients and replace traditional particle accelerators. Laser production of X-rays, gamma-rays, and neutrons for active nuclear interrogation and medical applications is being pursued.



4) Mid-infrared ultrafast source for accelerator applications (Sponsor: DARPA)

Compact dielectric structures pumped by ultrafast lasers could enable compact, high-efficiency accelerators and radiation sources for medical, scientific, and security applications. With the support of DARPA and within the UCLA-led GALAXIE consortium, we are developing mid-infrared sources of radiation based on nonlinear optical mixing processes. The goal of the project is the development of an ultrabright compact X-ray source phase-contrast medical imaging.