Luiz Jacobsohn works in a lab in Olin Hall at Clemson University. (Credit: Clemson University)

Research into “electronic traps” could mean that patients would be exposed to less radiation when they go to the doctor for certain tests and treatments. The research is aimed at making scintillators and dosimeters work more efficiently. Both devices detect ionizing radiation but do it in different ways and have different practical uses.

When an x-ray or gamma ray hits the material, it liberates a bunch of electrons. The electrons, in a scintillator, recombine and immediately emit light. In a dosimeter, the electrons are caught in electronic traps, and those electrons are later measured to tell the radiation dose.

By honing research on electronic traps, it could be possible to improve both scintillators and dosimeters. Scintillators work more efficiently when traps are removed, because fewer electrons get caught up and are free to recombine. That enhances their light output. Better scintillators could mean patients would be exposed to less radiation during treatment.

In dosimeters, the traps should capture electrons more effectively. The researchers will experiment with the composition and structure of metal oxides in hopes of finding a general rule that guides the fabrication of the metal oxides to help control for the presence of electronic traps.