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Nuclear and Particle Physics

Astrophysics

Today, scientists around the world use radioactive ion beam facilities to address the outstanding questions in the fields of nuclear astrophysics and nuclear structure. For example, these beams reproduce nuclear reactions that occur during the explosive deaths of stars, which are largely responsible for the distribution of isotopes we observe in our solar system. These studies answer many of the questions of how the universe formed into its current state and how it continues to evolve.

The Facility for Rare Ion Beams (FRIB), a new U.S. Department of Energy user facility, is currently under construction at Michigan State University which will allow scientists to probe new and exciting topics in this field. FRIB is expected to cost ~$600M and become fully operational around the year 2020. The higher beam intensities and advanced beam targets will allow scientists to make several first time measurements of key nuclear reactions. However, in nearly every case, the measurements done at this facility will require the efficient detection of gamma radiation.

drawing of HPGe detector array

PNNL has created a unique infrastructure and expertise in the construction of High-Purity Germanium (HPGe) detector arrays for gamma ray detection, based on solutions for projects related to national security. One of the approaches (used successfully on the MARS, RNLabs, and Majorana projects) arrays of commercially produced HPGe detectors together within a single cryostat. This is a technically challenging approach that has several advantages to enhance detection efficiency, meet unique geometry requirements, and use cost-effective materials.

The LANTERN project to build such a HPGe detector array leverages PNNL's capability in the construction of detector arrays to participate in the astrophysics program at FRIB.

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