Rad-Hard Diamond Detectors for Civil Nuclear Applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Interface Analysis Centre


Proof-of-principle studies have shown that it will be possible to adapt the diamond detector technology used in the ATLAS Beam Conditions Monitor for measurements within the Highly Active Storage Tanks at Sellafield and similar highly radioactive facilities worldwide. These measurements consist of two distinct but complementary techniques: dose rate measurements; and gamma spectroscopy - the former is completely novel compared to the ATLAS BCM. Both techniques have so far been investigated, and preliminary proof-of-principle results from each are presented in the proposal document. Thus far, the majority of work has been focused on substantiating the dose rate measurement technique, which has been calibrated using controlled radioactive sources from 2.98mGy/hr to 88Gy/min. An initial successful deployment of a prototype dose rate system at Sellafield has taken place with a follow-up deployment planned as part of this IPS project.

In concert with dose rate measurements, the energy deposited by interaction of gamma photons with electronic grade synthetic diamond can be measured using a high speed amplifier and analogue-to-digital converter system (as shown by ATLAS). The measured energy indicates the specific radioisotope undergoing decay and this is the basis for the proposed spectroscopic measurement system. Our early prototype system and software is currently capable of measuring the number and energy of gamma photon interactions with the diamond crystal and, hence, we are confident that the technical risk of delivery is sufficiently low that it is appropriate to move towards developing a commercially available device.

This proposed commercialisation project will provide further development of both of our dose rate measurement and spectrometry-based diamond devices. Within the project period, we will develop both devices to at least TRL7, with miniaturisation of each whole system (front- and back-end electronics) such that radiation measurements can be made in-situ and remotely in almost any plant. Facilitated by the project partners Sellafield Limited, we will also use the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to provide dose rate calibration, measurement verification and, later, certification of our devices. By the end of the project we aim to have developed and patented a suitably attractive body of IP that cultivates licencing interest from a number of international detector manufacturers.


10 25 50
Description AWE summer internship project on modelling of neutron interactions with isotopic diamond wafers
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Atomic Weapons Establishment 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 09/2018
Description AWE high energy imaging partnership 
Organisation Atomic Weapons Establishment
Department National Nuclear Security Programme
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution For the AWE we have been providing expertise on laser-driven gamma and neutron pulses as well as novel fast neutron imaging technologies using Diamond with a scintillation backing material. We are also supporting them in the establishment of a national high energy imaging facility.
Collaborator Contribution The AWE have co-funded a Royal Academy of Engineering professorial fellowship for me to run for 5 years until February 2021. This is a financial contribution of £50,000 per year, plus additional funding specifically for projects and secondments of members of my team.
Impact Outputs have inlcuded: - A modelling study report on the use of diamond for fast neutron imaging - Conducting a joint experiment at the LANSCE neutron facility in the USA to test deuterium infused diamond with a scintillator backing material as a fast neutron imaging material. - Undertaking a deuterium infusion study of diamond (at the AWE) to determine the deuterium (H-2) solubility as a function of pressure and temperature. The collaboration is ongoing and we will conduct further experiments in the next 12 months.
Start Year 2017
Description Cavendish-Babcock 
Organisation Cavendish Nuclear
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Providing information and updates on the gamma and beta voltaic technologies as part of the ASPIRE project as well as the wide nuclear robotics research hub grants.
Collaborator Contribution 2 days per year (£1600 est.) for expert advice, consultancy and attendance at the annual advisory board
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2018
Description Japan Atomic Energy Agency 
Organisation Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA)
Country Japan 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The grant award has led to the establishment of a strategic partnership with the JAEA based around fallout and fuel debris analysis. There has been an MoU signed by both institutions to permit collaboration, exchange of personnel and samples. Subsequently, the remit of the MoU has been widened (2019) to include joint work on diamond battery (ASPIRE) technology, high dose-rate diamond detectors and radiation mapping robots. We have contributed expertise, consultancy, shared data recorded from Japanese samples and sites and have won several experimental sessions at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility for fallout particle analysis. JAEA colleagues have participated in all of our UK synchrotron experiments and participated and presented at UK workshops and conferences e.g.
Collaborator Contribution Already we have had over 15 visits from the JAEA since the start of the partnership as well as a suite of fallout samples from Fukushima and access to nuclear fallout storage sites and other restricted areas of the Fukushima fallout zone. The site access and samples provided are extremely valuable.
Impact Several joint publications. Widening of the relationship to cover other areas such as radiation detection, UAVs and most recently diamond batteries.
Start Year 2016
Description Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute (KURRI) 
Organisation Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have been working with KURRI as our project partners to utilise their test reactor and Co-60 irradiation facility in Osaka to (I) neutron activate C-13 diamond samples and (2) utilise the irradiator facility to test our gamma voltaic prototype devices. As part of this we have modelled neutron irradiations of our diamond wafers in their reactor core.
Collaborator Contribution The have attended Industrial Advisory Board meetings in person and by Skype. They have also provided access to their Co-60 irradiator and have already deployed one set of test samples in their reactor core for neutron irradiation. They have provided VERY substantial in-kind support by providing this unique access.
Impact Access to a test reactor! We don't have one in the UK so this is a very significant outcome. What is even more substantial is that we don't have to pay for access.
Start Year 2017
Description NAMRC on atomic powered sensors 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Department Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are providing the Nuclear AMRC with prototype gamma-voltaic and beta-light-voltaic powered sensor units for deployment on Sellafield site. In the first phase of the programme we are providing 3 prototypes but in the second phase we will received more substantial funding to develop more advanced sensor units.
Collaborator Contribution NAMRC have provided the opportunity to deploy prototype sensor units at Sellafield site up in Cumbria. They have also provided direct funding for a small set of demonstrator prototypes.
Impact Too early at this stage.
Start Year 2019
Description Sellafield - link for diamond devices 
Organisation Sellafield Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of an ASPIRE sensor pod for demonstration deployment at the Sellafield site, ultimately targeted for deployment in a nuclear waste store. The ASPIRE sensors are being designed specifically (with input from Sellafield) for nuclear deployments in the extreme radiation environments of Intermediate and High-level nuclear waste stores.
Collaborator Contribution Sellafield have been instrumental in a number of ways: (1) Providing industrial support for a PhD student aimed at developing the gamma-voltaic aspect of the ASPIRE technology, (2) Direct negotiation with the Regulator (ONR) and BEIS on commercialisation and legislation of the technology, (3) Attendance at Industrial Advisory Board meetings, (4) Advice on graphite wastes from fission power that might be most suitable for processing to recover C-14 for the ASPIRE beta-voltaics and (5) Developing opportunities for on-site demonstration deployments of the ASPIRE prototype sensor pods before the end of the project.
Impact This collaboration is inherently multi-disciplinary - involving materials scientists, electrical engineers and physicists. Already an outcome is that we have facilitated Sellafield being directly involved with the shaping of the Culham H3AT facility. Further significant outputs are planned once further patents are filed.
Start Year 2017
Title Detection apparatus 
Description A novel dose rate measurement detector and associated instrumentation for application in very highly radioactive plant environments such as decommissioning cells and nuclear reactor cores. 
IP Reference GB1703496.8 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2017
Licensed No
Impact None as yet but we are in talks with a number of companies
Title Diamond based detector for high gamma dose measurements 
Description Development of a real-time dose measurement instrument for deployment in nuclear plant environments. The device utilises a calibrated diamond detector crystal, with 300V bias to generate an electrical current which is directly proportional to the incident gamma dose on the detector 
IP Reference WO2018158591 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed No
Impact We are currently in discussions with a number of companies with regards to licencing the technology
Description Babcock-Cavendish collaboration and meetings on nuclear waste and plant inspection 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A workshop organised by the South West Nuclear Hub for the purposes of sharing information on our research on nuclear waste and nuclear plant inspection.
This specifically included diamond detectors as well as laser-driven gamma and neutron imaging of waste packages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019