Contact Us
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Nuclear Physics Instrumentation, Detection Systems and Techniques

Please Note that a Letter of Intent is due Tuesday, September 08, 2015 5:00pm ET

Program Area Overview
Office of Nuclear Physics 
Nuclear physics (NP) research seeks to understand the structure and interactions of atomic nuclei and the fundamental forces and particles of nature as manifested in nuclear matter.  Nuclear processes are responsible for the nature and abundance of all matter, which in turn determines the essential physical characteristics of the universe.  The primary mission of the Nuclear Physics (NP) program is to develop and support the scientists, techniques, and facilities that are needed for basic nuclear physics research and isotope development and production.  Attendant upon this core mission are responsibilities to enlarge and diversify the Nation’s pool of technically trained talent and to facilitate transfer of technology and knowledge to support the Nation’s economic base. 
Nuclear physics research is carried out at national laboratories and accelerator facilities, and at universities. 
The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator
Facility (TJNAF) allows detailed studies of how quarks and gluons bind together to make protons and neutrons. 
In an upgrade currently underway, the CEBAF electron beam energy will be doubled from 6 to 12 GeV.  The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) is forming new states of matter, which have not existed since the first moments after the birth of the Universe; a beam luminosity upgrade is currently underway. NP is supporting the development of a future Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) currently under construction at Michigan State University.  The NP community is also exploring opportunities with a proposed electron_ion collider.  
The NP program also supports research and facility operations directed toward understanding the properties of nuclei at their limits of stability, and of the fundamental properties of nucleons and neutrinos.  This research is made possible with the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System (ATLAS) at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) which provides stable and radioactive beams as well as a variety of species and energies; a local program of basic and applied research at the 88_Inch Cyclotron of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); the operations of accelerators for in_house research programs at two universities (Texas A&M University and the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) at Duke University), which provide unique instrumentation with a special emphasis on the training of students; non_accelerator experiments, such as large standalone detectors and observatories for rare events.  Of interest is R&D related to future experiments in fundamental symmetries such as neutrinoless double_beta decay experiments and measurement of the electric dipole moment of the neutron, where extremely low background and low count rate particle detections are essential. Another area of R&D is rare isotope beam capabilities, which could lead to a set of accelerator technologies and instrumentation developments targeted to explore the limits of nuclear existence.  By producing and studying highly unstable nuclei that are now formed only in stars, scientists could better understand stellar evolution and the origin of the elements.
Our ability to continue making a scientific impact on the general community relies heavily on the availability of cutting edge technology and advances in detector instrumentation, electronics, software, accelerator design, and isotope production.  The technical topics that follow describe research and development opportunities in the equipment, techniques, and facilities needed to conduct and advance nuclear physics research at existing and future facilities. 
For additional information regarding the Office of Nuclear Physics priorities, click here.

TOPIC 24. Nuclear Physics Instrumentation, Detection Systems and Techniques 

Maximum Phase I Award Amount:  $150,000

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

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications:  YES

Accepting SBIR Fast_Track Applications:  YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications:  YES

Accepting STTR Fast_Track Applications:  YES

The Office of Nuclear Physics is interested in supporting projects that may lead to advances in detection systems, instrumentation, and techniques for nuclear physics experiments.  Opportunities exist for developing equipment beyond the present state_of_the_art at universities and national user facilities, facilities worldwide. A new suite of next_generation detectors will be needed for the 12 GeV Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator
Facility (CEBAF) Upgrade at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (TJNAF), and at the future Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) under construction at Michigan State University, and associated with detector and luminosity upgrades at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Lab, and a possible future Electron_Ion Collider (EIC).  Also of interest is technology related to future experiments in fundamental symmetries, such as neutrinoless double_beta decay (DBD) experiments and the measurement of the electric dipole moment of the neutron. In case of DBD experiments, extremely low background and low count rate particle detection are essential.  This topic seeks state_of_the_art targets for applications ranging from spin polarized and unpolarized nuclear physics experiments to stripper and production targets required at high_power, advanced, rare isotope beam facilities.  Lastly, this topic seeks new and improved techniques and instrumentation to cope with the high radiation environments anticipated for FRIB. All grant applications must explicitly show relevance to the nuclear physics program.  
All grant applications must explicitly show relevance to the DOE nuclear physics program. Additionally, applications must be informed by prior art in nuclear physics applications, commercially available products and emerging technologies A proposal based on incremental improvements or little innovations, in the right context, can have an enormous impact or value. Such a proposal must be convincing, otherwise it will be considered as being non_responsive.
Grant applications are sought only in the following subtopics: 
a. Advances in Detector and Spectrometer Technology
Nuclear physics research has a need for devices to detect, analyze, and track photons, charged particles, and neutral particles such as neutrons, neutrinos, and single atoms. Grant applications are sought to develop and advance the following types of detectors:
(1)  Ultra_violet and optical photon detectors and photosensitive devices:
?        Geiger avalanche photodiodes with a response faster than 10ps and area significantly larger and pixelation significantly denser than current commercial offerings;
?        Silicon Photomultipliers (SiPMs), in particular radiation_tolerant SiPMs , low radioactivity SiPMs, large area, low noise SiPMs or digital SiPMs with photon detection efficiency, especially in blue and UV wavelengths, and noise significantly improved over current state of the art with the goal of large arrays.
?        hybrid photomultiplier devices or devices using new types of large area (>>cm2) photoemissive materials. 
?        photon detectors capable of working in a liquid helium environment, noble gas or liquid ionization chambers, and other cryogenic detectors; 
(2)  Electromagnetic (EM) and hadronic calorimeters including:
?        new and innovative calorimeter concepts, new high_density absorber materials, improved absorber packing schemes to achieve a small Moliere radius and short radiation length for electromagnetic calorimetry, new materials and methods for improving calorimeter energy resolution, and cost effective or new manufacturing techniques for producing calorimeter components.
?        EM calorimeters capable of handling high rates in an environment with a high background at low energies and high radiation environments. See end references for details.
(3)  Systems for detecting the magnetization of polarized nuclei in a magnetic field (e.g., Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) or cells with paramagnetic atoms that employ large pickup loops to surround the sample).
(4)  Particle identification detectors such as:
?        low cost large area MCP type detector with high spatial resolution, high rate capability, radiation tolerance, magnetic field tolerance, and timing resolution of < 10 ps for time_of_flight detectors 
?        Cherenkov detectors with broad particle identification capabilities over a large momentum range and/or large area that can handle and trigger at high rate in noisy (very high rate, low_energy background) environments; and are magnetic field tolerant;
?        low_cost large area pixelated visible light sensor for Aerogel detectors;
?        affordable methods for the production of large volumes of high_purity xenon, argon and krypton gas (which would contribute to the development of transition radiation detectors and also would have many applications in X_ray detectors);
?        very high resolution (tenths of micrometers spatial resolution and tenths of eV energy resolution) particle detectors or bolometers (including the required thermistors) based on cryogenic semiconductor materials and radio_frequency techniques.  
?        detector technologies capable of measuring energies of alpha particles and protons with less than 5 keV resolution, therebyallowing spectroscopy experiments using light charged particles to be performed in the same way as spectroscopy experiments using gammas. 
(5)  Precision detector calibration methods such as 
?        controllable calibration sources for electrons, gammas, alphas, and neutrons; 
?        pulsed calibration sources for neutrons, gammas, and electrons; 
?        precision charged particle beams; 
?        pulsed UV and optical sources
(6)  Spectrometers and innovative magnet designs such as
?        development of iron_free magnet systems with tilted crossed solenoid windings and active shielding for a broad variety of superconducting dipoles, which could be used in high_acceptance spectrometers.  
?        innovative designs for high_resolution particle separators and spectrometers for next_generation rare isotope beam and intense stable beam facilities.  Developments of interest include both aircore and iron_dominated superconducting magnets that use either conventional low_
temperature conductors or new medium to high_temperature conductors for magnetic spectrometers, fragment separators, and beam transport systems.  Innovative designs such as elliptical aperture multipoles and other combined function magnets are of interest. 
?        cryogenic systems in the mid_capacity range for use with superconducting spectrometers for nuclear physics.  The emphasis is on cryogenic systems with higher capacity, improved efficiency, and reduced maintenance requirements at both low (4_20 K) and intermediate temperatures (50_77 K) relative to the present generation of cryo_coolers. 
Questions ? Contact: Also can contact the NP Topic Associate (TA) listed at the beginning of the References section for this topic.
b. Development of Novel Gas and Solid_State Detectors
Nuclear physics research has the need for devices to track charged particles, and neutral particles such as neutrons and photons. Items of interests are detectors with high energy resolution for low_energy applications, high precision tracking of different types of particles, and fast triggering capabilities. The subtopic announcements are grouped into solid_state devices and novel gas detectors.
Grant applications are sought to develop novel gamma_ray detectors, including:
1.     Position_sensitive photon tracking devices for nuclear structure and astrophysics applications, as well as associated technology for these devices. High_resolution germanium (Ge) capable of determining the position (to within a few millimeters utilizing pulse shape analysis) and energy of individual interactions of gamma_rays (with energies up to several MeV), allowing for the reconstruction of the energy and path of individual gamma_rays using tracking techniques, are of particular interest.
2.     Techniques for increasing the volume and/or area, or improving the performance of Ge detectors, or for substantial cost reduction of producing large_mass Ge detectors.
3.     Alternative materials, with resolution comparable to germanium, but with higher efficiency and room_ temperature operation. 
Grant applications are sought to develop advances in the general field of solid_state devices for tracking of charged particles and neutrons, such as silicon drift, strip, and pixel detectors, along with 3D silicon devices. Approaches of interest include: 
1.     Manufacturing techniques, including interconnection technologies for high granularity, high resolution, light_weight, and radiation_hard solid state devices; 
2.     Thicker (more than 1.5 mm) segmented silicon charged_particle and x_ray detectors and associated high density, high resolution electronics; 
3.     Low mass active_pixel sensors with thickness ~ 50 _m and large area Si pixel and strip detectors with thickness < 200 _m.
4.     Segmented solid state devices for neutron detection, with integrated electronics.
5.     Diamond detector or other radiation hard strip detector with strip size of 500 _m or less and at least 192 strip giving a total length of at least 4.8 cm long.
Grant applications are sought in the general field of micropattern gas detectors. This includes: 
1.     New developments in micro_channel plates; micro_strip, Gas Electron Multipliers (GEMs), Micromegas and other types of micro_pattern detectors;
2.     Commercial and cost effective production of GEM foils or thicker GEM structures;
3.     Micro_pattern structures, such as fine meshes used in Micromegas;
4.     High_resolution multidimensional readout such as 2D readout planes;
5.     Systems and components for large area imaging devices using Micromegas technology associated with the read_out of a high number of channels (typically ~10,000), which requires the development of printed circuit boards that have superior surface quality to minimize gain fluctuations and sparking. 
Grant applications are sought for the advancement of more conventional gas tracking detector systems, including drift chambers, pad chambers, time expansion chambers, and time projection chambers such as:  
1.     Gas_filled tracking detectors such as straw tubes (focusing on automated assembly and wiring techniques), drift tube, proportional, drift, and streamer detectors;
2.     Improved gases or gas additives that resist aging, improved detector resolution, decreased flammability and larger, more uniform drift velocity;
3.     Application of CCD cameras for optical readout in Time_Projection Chamber or other gaseous chamber detector technologies capable of tracking and measuring low momentum (<100 GeV/c) alpha particle, deuteron and proton with better than 10 keV resolution, thereby allowing tagged fixed_target experiments;
4.     New developments for fast, compact TPCs.
5.     Gamma_ray detectors capable of making accurate measurements of high intensities (>1011 /s) with a precision of 1_2 %, as well as economical gamma_ray beam_profile monitors;
6.     Components of segmented bolometers with high_Z material (e.g., W, Ta, Pb) for gamma ray detection with segmentation, capable of handling 100 _1000 gamma rays per second.
Finally, grant applications are sought to develop detector systems for rare isotope beams with focus on: 
1.     Next_generation, heavy_ion focal plane detectors or detector systems for magnetic spectrometers and recoil separators with high time resolution (< 200ps FWHM), high energy_loss resolution (1_2%), and high total_energy resolution (1_2%). 
2.     High_rate, position_sensitive particle tracking and timing detectors for heavy_ions, including associated readout electronic and data acquisition systems. Of interest are detectors with singleparticle detection capability at a rate of 107 particles per second, a timing resolution of better than 0.25 ns, spatial resolution of better than 10 mm (in one direction) and minimal   thickness variations (< 0.1 ? 0.5 mg/cm2) over an active area of typically 1 ? 20 cm. In addition, a successful design would maintain performance during continuous operation (at 107 s_1 particle rate) over multiple weeks.  Arrays of diamond detectors would be a possible approach.
Questions ? Contact: Also can contact the NP Topic Associate (TA) listed at the beginning of the References section for this topic.
c. Technology for Rare Decay and Rare Particle Detection
Grant applications are sought for detectors and techniques to measure very weak or rare event signals in the presence of significant backgrounds.  Such detector technologies and analysis techniques are required in searches for rare events (such as double beta decay) and searches for new nuclear isotopes produced at radioactive_beam and high_intensity stable_beam facilities.  Rare decay and rare event detectors require large quantities of ultra_clean materials for shielding and targets. 
Grant applications are sought to develop:
1.     Ultra_low background techniques and materials for supporting, cooling, cabling, connecting and processing signals from high_density arrays of detectors (such as radio_pure signal cabling, signal and high voltage interconnects, vacuum feedthroughs, front_end amplifier FET assemblies and front_end ASICs; radiopurity goals are as low as 1 micro_Becquerel per kg);
2.     Ultra_sensitive assay or mass_spectrometry methods for quantifying contaminants in ultra_clean materials;
3.     Cost_effective production of large quantities of ultra_pure liquid scintillators;
4.     Novel methods capable of distinguishing between interactions of gamma rays and charged particles in detectors; 
5.     Methods by which the background events in rare event searches, such as those induced by gamma rays or neutrons, can be tagged, reduced, or removed entirely.
6.     Novel materials with ultra_low trace contamination of radionuclides and solutions for the construction of ultra_low background detectors.  This includes structural and vacuum_compatible materials, hermetic containers and cable feedthroughs.
7.     Novel techniques for isotopic separation of intermediate mass elements to be used in large double_beta decay experiments.
Questions ? Contact: Also can contact the NP Topic Associate (TA) listed at the beginning of the References section for this topic.
d. High Performance Scintillators, Cherenkov Materials and Other Optical Components
Nuclear physics research has the need for high performance scintillator and Cherenkov materials for detecting photons and charged particles over a wide range of energies (from a few keV to up to many GeV). These include crystalline scintillators (such as BGO, BaF2, LaBr etc.) and liquid scintillators (both organic and cryogenic noble liquids) for measuring electromagnetic particles, plastic scintillators for measuring charged particles, and Cherenkov materials for particle identification. Many of these detectors require large area coverage and therefore cost effective methods for producing materials for practical devices. Grant applications are sought to develop:
?        New high density scintillating crystals with high light output and fast decay times.
?        Improved techniques for producing high purity cryogenic noble liquid scintillators (particularly argon and xenon).
?        Ultra_high_purity organic liquid scintillators with various dopants.
?        Large_area, high optical quality Cherenkov materials.
?        Precision Cherenkov radiators for Detectors of Internally Reflected Cherenkov Light (DIRCs).
?        Cherenkov materials with indices of refraction between gases and liquids (e.g., Aerogel).
?        Scintillators and Cherenkov materials that can be used for n/gamma discrimination using timing and pulse shape information or other method. .
?        High light output plastic scintillating and wavelength_shifting fibers. 
Questions ? Contact: Also can contact the NP Topic Associate (TA) listed at the beginning of the References section for this topic.
e. Specialized Targets for Nuclear Physics Research
Grant applications are sought to develop specialized targets, including:
1.     Polarized (with nuclear spins aligned) high_density gas or solid targets capable of  withstanding high electron or proton beam currents beyond the current state of the art; polarized 3He targets, especially novel high_pressure circulating gas concepts matching the next generation of highluminosity electron and photon beam experiments;
2.     Very thin windows (<100 micrograms/cm2 and/or50% transmission of 500 eV X_rays) for gaseous detectors, for the measurement of low_energy ions; and
3.     A positron_production target capable of converting hundreds of kilowatts of electron beam power (10 MeV at 10 mA) over a sufficiently short distance to allow for the escape of the produced positrons. Of particular interest would be moving and/or cooled high_Z targets of uniform, stable thickness (2_8 mm), which may be immersed in a 0.5_1.0 T axial magnetic field.
Grant applications also are sought to develop the technologies and sub_systems for the targets required at high_power, rare isotope beam facilities that use heavy ion drivers for rare isotope production.  Targets for heavy ion fragmentation and in_flight separation are required that are made of low_Z materials and that can withstand very high power densities and are tolerant to radiation. 
Finally, grant applications are sought to develop techniques for:
1.     Production of thin films (in the thickness range from a few _g/cm2 to over 10 mg/cm2) for chargestate stripping in heavy_ion accelerators; and
2.     Preparation of targets of radioisotopes, with half_lives in the range of hours, to be used off_line in both neutron_induced and charged_particle_induced experiments.
Questions ? Contact: Also can contact the NP Topic Associate (TA) listed at the beginning of the References section for this topic.
f. Technology for High Radiation Environments
Next generationrare isotope beam facilities require new and improved techniques, instrumentations and strategies to deal with the anticipated high radiation environment in the production, stripping and transport of ion beams.  These could also be useful for existing facilities. Therefore grant applications are sought to develop:
1.     Rotary vacuum seals for applications in high_radiation environment:  Vacuum rotary feedthroughs for high rotational speeds, which have a long lifetime under a high_radiation environment (order of months to years at 0.5_15 MGy/month), are highly desirable for the realization of rotating targets and beam dumps for rare isotope beam production and beam strippers in high_power heavy_ion accelerators.  
2.     Radiation resistant magnetic field probes based on new technologies:  An issue in all high_power target facilities and accelerators is the limited lifetime of conventional nuclear magnetic resonance probes in high_radiation environments (0.1_10 MGy/y).  The development of radiation_resistant magnetic field probes for 0.2_5 Tesla and a precision of dB/B<10_4 is highly desired.  
3.     Improved models of radiation transport in beam production systems:  The use of energetic and highpower heavy ion beams at future research facilities will create significant radiation fields.  Radiation transport studies are needed to design and operate facilities efficiently and safely.  Advances of radiation transport codes are desired for (a) the inclusion of charge state distributions of initial and produced ions including distribution changes when passing through material and magnetic fields, (b) efficient thick_shield, heat deposition, and gas production studies, (c) the implementation of new models of heavy ion radiation damage, and their validation against experimental data.
4.     Radiation tolerant sensors for video cameras: Cost efficient video sensors with resolutions of VGA
(640 ? 480 pixel) or better but with enhanced radiation tolerance for prolonged operation in the presence of neutron fluxes of about 105 n cm_2 s_1, would be beneficial in the operation and remote handling of equipment in radiation fields, e.g. at rare isotope production facilities. 
5.     Fast neutron and photon dose_equivalent area monitors: Neutron and photon dose_equivalent area monitors that are fast and pulsed beam capable, have minimal total dead time, have dose response to high energy radiation (e.g. neutron energies > 1 GeV), and can meet high safety standard requirements (e.g. IEC 61511) would be beneficial at high power research accelerator facilities like FRIB or medical accelerator facilities where full beam loss accidents can have significant dose consequences. Response times in the range of 0.3 seconds or faster are desirable.
Questions ? Contact: Also can contact the NP Topic Associate (TA) listed at the beginning of the References section for this topic.
g. Other
In addition to the specific subtopics listed above, the Department invites grant applications in other areas that fall within the scope of the topic description above
Questions ? Contact:

Contact Us
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.