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2.     Alternative radiological source technologies

Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $200,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,100,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications: NO


The Office of Proliferation Detection (PD) within Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development (DNN R&D) has an objective to reduce the reliance on high-activity commercial and industrial radioactive sources. The office is interested in developing replacements for radiological sources to promote the adoption of non-radioisotopic alternative technologies where technically, operationally, and economically feasible.  Grant applications are sought in the following subtopics:


a.      Portable Modular Accelerator Technology to Replace Gamma in Irradiation Applications

Ionizing radiation sources are widely used in broad spectrum of applications, including but not limited to: industrial irradiation, cancer treatment, polymer crosslinking, and radiographic inspection of pipes. Multiple irradiation technologies are available: radioisotope sources, non-radioisotopic x-ray sources, and ultrasonic testing sources. The use of high-activity radioisotope sources (including Cs-137, Ir-192, Co-60, and Se-75) poses a radiological security risk since the sources could be stolen and used in a radiological dispersal device, or “dirty bomb”. X-ray and electron beam systems have the potential to be used in lieu of radioisotope sources, thus eliminating the security risk. However, for this technology to be widely adopted, additional development is needed to meet end-user requirements for portable, stable operations.


The Office of Proliferation Detection is soliciting the development of a modular and portable irradiation platform capable of replacing the need for radioisotope source-based irradiators in a broad range of applications. The modular device needs to be very mobile and robust to challenging environmental conditions, including varying temperatures. The creation of a standardized platform is desired for both electron and x-ray irradiation. The system should be able to deliver as wide a range in dose as possible within the range of 0.5 Gy/min to hundreds of Gy/min at a wide range of energies from 1 to 10 MeV. The intent is to establish a cost effective common base technology that can be broadly adopted in various applications and industries with minimal additional engineering effort (i.e. shaping electron beam, conversion to x-ray, beam shaping, etc.)


Questions – Contact: Donald Hornback,


b.      Glass-metal Fritted Assemblies for Alpha-detection

Glass-metal fritting is a widely used method for several commercial-based applications. However, there is a shortfall in commercial capability for specialized detector fabrication for some nonproliferation needs, such as alpha detection in associated particle neutron generators. The Office of Proliferation Detection requires a reliably produced source for hermetic glass-metal assemblies that consists of a fiber-optic window with a viewable diameter greater than or equal to 50 mm. Complexities of manufacturing include sealing the assembly to a flange that can be welded into a stainless steel housing and baked at 300° C for an extended (> 1 day) period without loss of vacuum seal.  The fiber-optic window must be compatible with the use of extra-mural absorption (EMA) fibers to absorb stray photons not contained within individual fibers, have a numerical aperture of at least 0.6, and a leak rate less than 1e-10 std cc/s. Existing NNSA projects have identified he opportunity to establish this specialized fabrication capability. Please contact the topic POC for more information.


Questions – Contact: Donald Hornback,


c.       Other

In addition to the specific subtopics listed above, grant applications in other areas relevant to this topic are invited.


Questions – Contact: Donald Hornback,



References: Subtopic a:

1.      National Research Council. “Radiation Source Use and Replacement: Abbreviated Version.” National Academies Press, 2008, 


2.      U.S. Department of Energy. “Basic Research Needs Workshop on Compact Accelerators for Security and Medicine.” U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, 2019,   

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